Tuesday, 03 Feb, 2009 Technology

Google Earth Offers 3D Map of Mars


On Monday, Google presented new software of its already popular Google Earth. Now Mars fans have the ability to explore the craters, volcanoes and even the places that Mars Pathfinder visited on the red planet. This is all available with the help of the new version of Google Earth desktop application.

The entire Mars map is composed of 1,000 gigabytes of data stored from a collection of Mars probes, Viking orbiters, launched by NASA; Mars Express orbiter, launched by Europe; and 6 landers, including NASA's twin rovers. All the probes allowed creating a 3D view of the red planet at many different scales.

"What we've done is bring all that information into one single, easy-to-use platform. Everything that's ever gone to Mars has been put together to give us this unified view of the planet," outlined Matthew Hancher of NASA's Ames Research Center, based in Moffett Field, California.

The latest invention from Google is available to virtually anyone who has a computer. Yet, Hancher mentioned that the new tool will also allow researchers carry out their studies of certain areas on Mars based on available data, including infrared images and mineral maps created by orbital spectrometers.

Google looked forward to make its software interactive, making it possible for users to draw lines, embed clips, add text and pictures. In addition, scientists have the possibility to add new content. The added data must be encoded in KML to be correctly overlaid on the globe.

Currently adding information to the Mars layer is manual and according to Hancher only several hundred images have been added from the HiRISE camera mounted aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is the most powerful camera scientists have even sent to another planet. The program is part of Google Mars , which is an online instrument that provides two-dimensional map of Mars pieced together from pictures taken by Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey.

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