Google Earth Goes Beyond Our Planet

25 Mar Google Earth Goes Beyond Our Planet

Most google users are familiar with Google Maps, an online map resource providing driving directions and traffic information.  But the Google team has gone well beyond driving directions and maps with their free application, Google Earth. Google Earth provides an interactive, 3-D environment for users to explore the Earth, the oceans, the moon, Mars, and even space. Using intuitive click-and-drag motions, users can “fly” around the world, zooming in to Streetview or zooming out into the atmosphere. Google Earth includes a search function that works with addresses or names of places, and an option to save favorite places to visit again and again.

Each of Google Earth’s modes (Earth, Sky, Moon, and Mars) includes informational overlays, as well as pictures taken by users and contributors. Each overlay can be turned on or off, so users can decide which information they want to view. It also includes a History slider to take users back in time. Watch cities grow on the ground, or watch the movement of the planets in space.

In Google Earth’s Earth mode, users can tour landmarks, viewing 3-D models of the trees that grow in cities and parks, as well as taking interactive 3-D tours of landmarks and buildings. Landmarks such as palaces, art museums, sports stadiums and skyscrapers are all available to view. Users can explore our planet’s deep oceans, searching out shipwrecks and learning about marine life.

Earth mode also has a Safari option, taking users on a world-wide tour of wildlife. Use Streetview to walk alongside a donkey in Botswana, or follow seals on protected Prion Island.

Google Earth’s Moon mode takes users on a tour of the Apollo missions, including tours of landing sites narrated by astronauts, and 3-D models of landed spacecraft. Users can even zoom in to view astronauts’ footprints.

Google Earth’s Mars mode explores the surface of Mars, updated live from NASA. Users can follow the tracks of Mars rovers and search for famous landmarks. Fans of Bill Nye the Science Guy can take an interactive tour with his narration, or explore on their own.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring mode in Google Earth is Sky. This mode allows users to explore the visible universe, flying between constellations and discovering distant galaxies and nebulae. With beautiful pictures from the Hubble telescope and Slooh Space Camera, Sky mode is a live-updating look at space.

The size of Google Earth’s database might seem intimidating, but every mode comes with guided, interactive tours to show users points of interest. The Google Earth website includes tutorials and specialized maps made by users.  Google Earth is available for free in three ways: a stand-alone program that runs from a user’s desktop, a plug-in to a user’s Internet browser, or as a mobile application for Android or iOS devices.  Start exploring today!

– Written by NAMI San Diego Tech CAFÉ staff