- New StreeView Stuff – Google pre-announced new StreetView data for New York City. The data reportedly has higher resolution data. However, so far I’m not seeing the new StreetView imagery. But, those of you concerned about seeing your face appear there – don’t worry – Google has used face-detection software that “blurs” the faces in the imagery. The data is also reportedly more recent. I did notice a new “More” drop-down option that lets you turn on Panoramio or Wikipedia placemarks though.
- WorldWide Telescope – Microsoft has surprised many of us by releasing a beta of their widely anticipated WorldWide Telescope application. Stefan Geens at OgleEarth calls it “stunning”, and further says: “this is easily the most impressive thing I’ve seen Microsoft do in a long time…”. I haven’t had a chance to try installing it, but hopefully will before the week is out. I’ll draw comparisons with Google Earth’s Sky mode. Mickey says it has some bugs, but is definitely worth checking out. The New York Times has an interesting article describing both WWT and Google Earth Sky and compares them from a philosophical approach.
- Dishpointer.com – Stefan at OgleEarth also has a great review of an interesting new web site called Dishpointer. This site will calculate the angle for TV satellite antennas. More importantly, it will let you see it in Google Earth so you can turn on 3D buildings and see if you might be obscured by buildings.
- Yahoo WOE – Rev Dan Catt announced a new Yahoo capability to offer “Where on Earth IDs”. Here’s the Yahoo announcement. Dan focuses on the Flickr aspects of using these new ids. Ed Parsons from Google also comments positively on the Yahoo effort.
- GPSAnimator.com – Got an E-mail from some folks who have developed an application called StarTRAX which lets you visualize your GPS tracks in Google Earth. I haven’t had a chance to try it out, but it sounds a lot like GPSVisualizer.
Just a quick note that Google has updated the layers for the Sky mode of Google Earth (viewable with GE 4.2 or the new 4.3 beta). We last had a big update to the Sky layers in January. So, I’m kind of surprised to see even more data added. But, I’m not going to complain!
So, today’s update includes several new layers:
Current Sky Events – This layer folder now has two new additions: 1) Hubblecast – a layer of placemarks showing video clips from the Hubble Space Telescope team showing science mini-documentaries on various astronomical topics. The placemarks show the location of the objects discussed. 2) StarDate – StarDate is the public education and outreach arm of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. These are radio broadcasts available in English and Spanish, and again placemark places discussed in each clip.
Education Center – This layer folder also has two new additions: 1) Celestron Skyscout – another astronomy layer which comes from the Celestron telescope company. They have developed Skyscout, which is a “personal planetarium” device that lets you point at objects in the sky and tells you what you are looking at (Read more about Skyscout). I’m guessing this layer is a sample of the content you would get if you had one of these Skyscout devices. 2) Virtual Tourism – this is a much more interesting layer. The layer actually comes from a project by Keir Clarke at Virtual Tourism. He created a Google Maps mashup called Star Viewer which uses the Sky API to show astronomy video clips. Now its a built-in layer for Google Earth’s Sky.
There seems to be some problems with the “Our Solar System” layer at the moment. First, there seem to be two copies of each planet in slightly different positions. Double clicking on the planet in the layers doesn’t fly you to the location either.
Last week, on the same day Arthur Clarke passed away, light from an object 7.5 billion light years away suddenly arrived at Earth. The light was brighter than any ever observed by astronomers. It was detected first in the form of a Gamma Ray Burst, and was so bright it was even visible briefly in normal light to the naked eye. According to NASA: “…it was 2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova ever recorded, making it the most intrinsically bright object ever observed by humans in the universe.” See Sky & Telescope article where this photo came from:
Wow! What an amazing event. And the timing is simply uncanny. Stefan Geens posted about the remarkable coincidence today at OgleEarth and not only provides more details and links to interesting data about the object, but also has provided a KMZ file showing the exact location of the event in Google Sky. The file also includes two image overlays from optical observations of the event (one close-up view, and a broader view).
The name of the object is officially GRB 080319B. GRB stands for Gamma Ray Burst, and the number is the date of the event. Given the proximity of the event to Arthur Clarke’s death, I think it should be called the “Clarke Event“.
Google today has released a more complete implementation of the Google Sky data to Google Maps. Back in mid-December Google released an API to sky so you could make mashups with Google Sky data for use with the Google Maps web-based interface. However, it didn’t allow you full access to all the layers available in Google Earth’s version. According to the post at the Official Google Blog, a code jam winner who became an intern at Google was given the opportunity to develop a full Maps interface for Sky – and the results were released today at: Sky.Google.Com
The new release sports some nice features which lets you view many of the new layers which were introduced to the Google Earth Sky interface back in January. This includes the full-sky microwave layer, samples from the Spitz Infrared space telescope, and much more. Not only that, but there are handy opacity (transparency) sliders which let you compare one frequency with another. Just today I was remarking on the way to do this in a post about a new add-on for the Earth-based Sky which shows a bunch of other wavelengths from NASA’s Skyview database (read the bottom of the post under “Advanced tips“). I may have to do a video tutorial explaining how to use this feature. Right now its easier to use the transparency feature in this new Maps-based version. (I do wish there was a name change to differentiate between the Google Sky mode in Google Earth verses the new Google Sky mode for Google maps.) Anyway, I’m glad to see yet another way to view the data. I love astronomy!
Watch the short video Google put up in their post today which gives you a brief glimpse at the features:
Thanks to Mickey Mellen of Digital Earth Blog for actually calling me on the phone to let me know about this new announcement! He knew I would like it.
In yet another example of the power of KML and Google Earth’s powerful developer features, someone has developed a cool new feature which lets you view multiple wavelengths of stellar objects as an animation in the Sky mode. Robert Simpson is a PhD student in Astronomy who posted the new feature at his blog Orbiting Frog. What he did was create a KML file which when you zoom in on an area of the night sky – it fetches imagery from the NASA Skyview database. (Note:– it can take a while to load because it is loading multiple images in different wavelengths of light for that area of the sky from the NASA server.) Robert’s application overlays the images and uses the time slider to allow you to view each wavelength as an animation. Currently the time slider just shows a different date for each wavelength (kind of confusing, but he is re-purposing the time slider for a different application). However, the resulting effect is quite amazing! Just drag the time slider in the upper center and you can see the images in different wavelengths. Move to a new area of the sky to load a different set of images (each time you move it has to load a different set).
By the way, Sky also has a number of high resolution images built in to the layers from different observatories showing different wavelengths of light. Some of the images are very high resolution, others are simply amazing alternate views of objects we are used to only seeing in the optical wavelength. If you look at the layers in the lower left and open the Featured Observatories layer folder you will see a list showing:
Hubble Showcase – Optical wavelength
Spitzer Infrared Showcase
GALEX Ultraviolet Showcase
Chandra X-Ray Showcase
WMAP Microwave Sky – Full sky in microwave
IRIS Infrared Sky – Full sky in infrared
Important tips: If you select one of the showcases, you need to look for a corresponding placemark and click on the image in the description bubble to fly to the location. Then make sure the image layer is turned on by selecting “Show this layer“. Turn off each layer when you are done so you can return to seeing the original imagery. Advanced tip: This is a little-known trick built in to Google Earth/Sky – If you select the layer on the lower left (it will be highlighted), you can then use the transparency slider above the layer pane to change transparency for the imagery in the given layer. This is another way to compare wavelength imagery in Google Sky, and has a very cool effect. You can also do that with Robert’s SkyView overlay to compare imagery.