Google announced an update to Mars in Google Earth, the 3D mapping tool for the Red Planet.
Originally released with Google Earth 5.0, Mars in Google Earth contains more features that give users a sense of how the knowledge of Mars and our study of astronomy have evolved over time. After selecting ‘Mars’ from the toolbar in Google Earth, users fly to a 3D view of the Red Planet, complete with informational layers, imagery, and terrain. The tools for navigation and exploration on Mars are identical to those on Earth – zoom in and out, change the camera view, or spin the entire planet with a click of the mouse.
There are three new features in this updated version of Mars in Google Earth. First, users can travel back in time to see the Red Planet through the eyes of the pioneers of Mars science in the ‘Historical Maps’ layer by exploring antique maps by astronomers Giovanni Schiaparelli, Percival Lowell, Nathaniel Green, and Antoniadi.
Then, they can fast-forward to the present day with the new ‘Live from Mars’ layer, featuring a continuous stream of the latest imagery from today’s Mars spacecraft. ‘Live from Mars’ includes imagery from NASA’s Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and lets users fly along with Odyssey as well as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to see what they have been observing lately and where they are headed next. While the imagery from Odyssey is not being streamed in real-time, it will made available within hours of it being downloaded from the spacecraft and is refreshed at least once per day. A continuous steam of high-resolution satellite imagery of Mars has never been made available to the general public faster than this.
Users can view map-overlays that highlight specific aspects of Mars, such as variations in surface elevation and composition. Mountains, volcanoes, craters, and more have been marked across the planet.
Visible Imagery feature combines imagery from several orbital missions, including the Viking Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. Mars Digital Image Map is a global image map of Mars assembled by the USGS from approximately 4,600 Viking Orbiter Images. With Daytime Infrared and Nighttime Infrared options, one can view images in the infrared band that were captured in the Martian daytime and nighttime by the THEMIS on board the Mars Odyssey Satellite.
Users can discover other exciting features, and learn all about the history of Mars science and exploration, with two new guided tours of Mars narrated by Ira Flatow of Public Radio’s Science Friday and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Mars in Google Earth also contains several updates to the popular features that were available at the original launch. The company has included updated imagery from NASA and ESA, and improved the search function to make it easier to explore well-known sites on Mars. Just as they could in the original version of Mars in Google Earth, users can read geo-located articles from Hartmann’s A Traveler’s Guide to Mars about the solar system’s largest canyon, Valles Marineris, its tallest volcano, Olympus Mons, the infamous ‘Face on Mars’, and many other famous Martian locations. They can also follow the paths of Mars rovers and view hi-resolution panoramic photos of the Mars surface.