Earlier this week Google Inc. launched a new version of Google Earth that allows users to explore the oceans, view images of the planet Mars and watch regions of the Earth change over time.
The new features mark a significant upgrade to Google Earth – a popular software program that provides access to the world’s geographical information through digital maps, satellite imagery and the company’s search tools.
Google Earth 5.0 was unveiled at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where former Vice President Al Gore and others spoke about its capacity to educate the public about global warming, ocean acidification and other threats to the planet.
“This is an extremely powerful educational tool,” said Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work raising awareness about global warming. “One of my fondest hopes is that people around the world will use Google Earth to see for themselves the reality of what’s happening because of the climate crisis.”
More than 500 million people have downloaded Google Earth since it was launched in 2005. The software is available for free on Google’s website. Researchers and organisations can purchase a more powerful version for $400.
Oceans in Google Earth
John Hanke, director of Google Earth and Maps, said the idea of adding oceans came three years ago when a scientist pointed out that the software was missing the water that covers almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface.
Google Earth users can now plunge beneath the ocean’s surface, explore three-dimensional images of the underwater terrain and view articles and videos about marine science contributed by scientists and organisations around the world.
Internet users are now able to fly over and around underwater seamounts or follow scientific research expeditions as they mine the depths of the oceans for new species and discoveries.
The new ocean tool from Google is being dubbed has one of the best tools for protecting our oceans. According to experts, less than one percent of the Earth’s oceans are protected, compared with 12 percent of the land surface.
A key creation of the project is the Marine Protected Area layer, which contains information on over 4,500 protected sites spread around the globe and is conceived as an interactive tool that anybody can contribute to. Anybody can now dive in and explore the natural beauty, learn what threats these protected areas face and find out what they can do to help.
Exploring the future and beyond
The Historical Imagery feature lets users see archive satellite images of individual locations to see how the region has evolved over time as a result of climate change and other forces. For example, viewers can observe how the largest glacier in Glacier National Park has melted over the past decade.
Google has also made connections with the Hubble Space Telescope – a large space-based observatory which has revolutionised astronomy by providing unprecedented deep and clear views of the universe. These images range from our own solar system to extremely remote fledgling galaxies forming not long after the Big Bang.
With Google Mars 3D users can view three-dimensional, satellite imagery of the Red Planet taken during NASA space expeditions.
The new version of Google Earth also allows users to created narrated tours of places using the software’s content and images.
“It’s not just a fun demo,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. “What it really is, is a platform for science and research and literally understanding the future of the world.”
– Original text supplied
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