Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mapping Mars in Google Earth 5.0

Google announced Friday a major update to show more details of Mars both in its history and the present day. Originally the 3D maps of Mars were available with the release of Google Earth 5.0, just a little more than a month ago. The update shows how our knowledge of Mars, and our study of astronomy, has evolved over time.

According to Google, the new update allows us to travel back in time to see the antique maps originally drawn by astronomers Giovanni Schiaparelli, Percival Lowell, and others. It also show present-day Mars with a "Live from Mars" layer, which is a continuous stream of the latest imagery, including those from NASA's THEMIS camera aboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

Users can have the feel of flying along with Odyssey as well as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to see what the two crafts have been observing lately and where they are headed next.

Historical Maps: In the late 1800s, Giovanni Schiaparelli created many of the earliest detailed maps of Mars. He famously saw, recorded, and named numerous linear features on the surface, some of which he termed cannali (Italian for channel). His contemporary, Percival Lowell, re-imagined and misunderstood these features to be artificial canals, sparking a media frenzy back on Earth and captivating the public with the idea of abundant water and an alien civilization on Mars. The Historical Globes layer lets you see these and other antique maps of Mars as virtual spinning globes.



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