WSJ Article – The Wall Street Journal wrote today about some of the Google Earth Outreach content. The article highlights the Appalachian Voices Mountain Top Removal campaign and a new feature on their web site which determines whether your power company gets their coal from destroyed mountains by giving your zip code. The article highlights Google’s GE Outreach program which was announced in New York last June. It also quotes yours truly as saying we should “see an onslaught of new environmental content” thanks to the Outreach program. It takes a while to develop top-quality content and get it ready to be included as a layer in Google Earth. I expected this article to contain an announcement of a new Google Earth layer. But, for some reason its taking longer than I expected for Google to release new Outreach-approved layers.
Tornado History – Google Earth Community member ‘giasen’ has produced another cool data visualization. He’s tapped into a historical archive of tornado reports in the US for the last several decades. He created time stamped placemarks for each report and categorized them based on the number of fatalities resulting. Download the tornado data here (1.5 Mbytes). Select the folders for the different categories of tornadoes. Use the time slider to watch the animation. Fortunately, most (the green ones) had zero fatalities. And also fortunately, you can observe how there are fewer fatalities over time thanks to better warning systems, better construction, and safety precautions.
Google Sky Exoplanets – A post today about using Google Sky in the classroom had an interesting reference to a collection of placemarks which show the locations of all the known planets discovered outside our solar system. These come from the web site exoplanets.org which is the California and Carnegie Planet Search project. See the exoplanet collection in Google Sky . To me, having lived most of my life only dreaming there were planets outside our solar system, it is amazing to see how full the sky is of planets already discovered in just the last few years. It’s amazing to realize that there are many more planets out there than the stars we see when we look at our night sky.
When Google Earth 4.2 came out with the new Sky mode on August 22, they included two layers called “The Moon” and “The Planets“. These layers use the time slider to show you the positions of the moon and planets in the night sky. The only problem is that the layers only included three months worth of prediction. So, on October 22 they no longer showed future data. Google realized the problem and posted a new update at the end of the month. Google mentioned that they are working on a way to automatically keep the layers updated. Don’t forget the nice add-on which shows a top-down view of the solar system while playing the time loop.
[UPDATED 16-Nov-2007: Updated placemark below to reflect new position of Comet Holmes – still visible to the naked eye, very noticeable with binoculars or a low-powered telescope! Also, added an image and link from Sky & Telescope which shows the positions of Comet Holmes over the next few weeks.]
A comet called 17P/Holmes, not normally visible to the naked eye, on October 24th suddenly burst a million times brighter. Scientists believe the comet is a ball of dirty ice which has cracked open and revealed new white ice which is reflecting the sun much brighter. The object is still dim to the naked eye, and it appears like a normal star. But, the fact it can be seen at all is highly unusual. Read more at Space.com.
Surprisingly few news reporters even mentioned how to find the star, or published the coordinates. But, I did find the coordinates and quickly made a placemark so you can view the location in Sky of Comet Holmes. It is in the constellation of Perseus. I plan on checking it out tonight. We need to teach journalists to start publishing KML files to point out the locations of their stories – whether it be somewhere on Earth, or somewhere up in the sky. By the way, thanks to my friend Jim Scotti who is an astronomer at The Spacewatch Project. See a picture he took with a regular SLR digital camera showing the comet.
[UPDATE: I found it in tonight’s sky quite easily using the view from Sky. Amazing!]
For a long time, I’ve been viewing the splendor of the universe on the web by viewing the web site Astronomy Picture of the Day which is hosted by NASA. In fact, the site had its beginnings in 1995, so it really has been a long time. And, with better and better telescopes, and enhanced digital image processing, the pictures from the heavens have only been getting more beautiful. This is one of the reasons Google Earth’s new Sky mode is useful (for showing these pictures). But, even with the large number of photos built-in to Google’s Sky mode, it has only begun to show a small portion of the photos already available. And, every day more photos are being taken. There are sometimes many different photos taken of the same location with different telescopes. Fortunately, with Sky, you can overlay other imagery of the same spot.
Put this all together, and Google Earth Community member ‘syzygy‘ came up with the great idea of doing a Astronomy Picture-Overlay of the Day for Sky at the GEC forum for Sky. He’s been taking photos from APOD and Space.com and overlaying in the appropriate point in Sky. You just view the attachments to see the images he displays in Google Earth. For example, here is an image of NGC-7331 (which came from Space.com’s image of the day) – astronomers say it is close to being the twin of our own Milky Way galaxy. (NOTE: after you “Switch to Sky” mode in Google Earth, you may have to double-click on the NGC 7331 placemark in Places to be flown to see it). Syzygy has a great idea with this thread of posts, but an even better idea would be to get Space.com and NASA to start providing a KML file image overlays for their imagery by default. And, having a network link which automatically shows all the photos available would be even better.
I’m attending the Annapolis US Sailboat Show at the home of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland today. So, I thought I would start today with an interesting naval find in the new imagery for Google Earth released Oct. 2nd – and, I’m including a link to the boat show as well.
Ohio Class Sub – The new imagery from Oct. 2nd reveals an Ohio Class Nuclear Sub heading toward its homeport in the Hood Canal portion of the Puget Sound. The location was revealed at the Google Earth Community by DelPiero in this thread. Several others added detailed speculations on which sub is in the photo, and noted the presence of three Coast Guard escorts. Here is a KML file with placemarks for all 4 vessels, and a link to the US Navy academy and the boat show I’m attending in Annapolis.
Galactic Delight – A team of astronomers from several space and ground based observatories have combined efforts to study a strip of our sky which includes a huge number of galaxies – and is known as the Groth Strip. The observatories specialize in observing a number of different parts of the wavelengths of light. You can read more about the project called AEGIS here. What’s more interesting is they have started releasing results viewable in Google Earth’s new Sky mode – see it here (see some instructions here). Stefan Geens at OgleEarth has a nice write-up about it.
Constellation Drawings – Stephanie at the Google Earth Community has put together some excellent constellation depictions of mythological figures as image overlays for Google Sky (see post). The drawings come from engravings from Johannes Hevelius Firmamentum Sobiescianum (1690), and more details can be found from a web site of the Hubble Space Telescope. You can download the network link here which shows the images. Beautiful pictures – and a great idea to make them available to Sky Stephanie!