Geographic

Google Sightseeing

I discovered an interesting blog today called Google Sightseeing, a site which displays satellite images from around the world as found on the recently updated Google Maps service. The postings are broken down into a number of groups, I think the best of which is the 'weirdness' category. My favourite posting so far is this mind boggling image where two satellite photos taken from different angles have been stitched together to create a seamless - if slightly confusing - single image.

On a related note, this image on the Flickr photo sharing site is brilliant - it's the view an ordinary person on the ground gets when Google Maps pinpoints a spot nearby.

Google extends satellite imagery

Google Maps does satelliteOn Monday Google expanded their Google Maps service to provide users with satellite imagery as well as the maps they provided previously. They work in the same way as the maps, so you can drag them around, zoom in and out and have your search results highlighted on the satellite photos as well. To view the satellite image equivalent, just click on 'satellite' in the top right hand corner of the page. The images are being provided by their Keyhole service, the full version of which is a downloadable programme which lets you view satellite photos of the whole planet and zoom into 1m resolution where available. Keyhole is only free for 7-days and I used up that trial period quite some time ago so it is good to see that they are providing at least some of that data for free again through their mapping website.

Like the Google Maps service though, you really need a fast connection to be able to use it effectively. I'm trying it on a dialup connection here and it's not working as seemlessly as it would on a faster connection. I'm looking forward to being able to experiment with their offering using a broadband connection when I get back to London at the weekend.

Does Google think the world is flat?

Google MapsExperimenting with Google Maps today, I was trying to see if there were any backdoors to maps of countries other than the USA and Canada - the only two countries they map at present. I tried changing the domain to maps.google.co.uk (and other country domains) and I tried adding parameters to the end of the URL but neither worked despite numerous attempts.

At that point I wondered what would happen if I scrolled across the Atlantic, maybe something would pop up that way. Nothing did, and the sea mysteriously went grey, but still they allowed me to scroll as far as I wanted. One thing that struck me as a little odd (despite them letting you scroll beyond the limits of the map) was that no matter how far I scrolled, I never came back to the maps of the USA and Canada. It's interesting that they have implemented a system which isn't based on a globe, it's still based on flat, projected maps.

I wonder what will happen when - I say when because almost certainly they will - implement other country maps. Will they use a completely separate system for each or will they try to stitch them all together so people like me don't get lost in the middle of the ocean? Multimap, one of the most popular British mapping sites, appears to get around this problem by using a map layer which covers more than a single country. I think the map data that Google Maps use also allows them to do this, so perhaps they will implement a single system but with local sites zooming to the country of interest when loaded.

Spin the globe

Blue Marble image of EarthA visitor to my site signed my guestbook the other day with a link to his creation - a globe that you can spin to your desired location. It's fun to play with but I found the earth being turned upside down quite easily, and then not being able to figure out how to return it to the angle I wanted it at.

A few months back I was experimenting with NASA's World Wind software, which does a similar job but also pulls in data from satellite imagery and other aerial photo sources whilst also allowing you to zoom to a much greater detail. When it is all working properly you can zoom in and even look at mountains and other terrain in 3-dimensions thanks to the SRTM height data collection on recent shuttle missions.

(I still had the same problem of disorientation in NASA's software too!)

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