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The Sciences

Google Moon

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitSeptember 19, 2007 1:55 AM


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Via the Google blog comes the news of a new app: Google Moon! It's very cool, and you can even select the Apollo landing sites. When you zoom in, it shows you the locations of various moonwalks, pieces of equipment, and more. They were pretty clear about its use in the press release:

Google Moon's visible imagery and topography are aligned with the recently updated lunar coordinate system and can be used for scientifically accurate mission planning and data analysis. The new site is designed to be user- friendly and encourage the exchange of data and ideas among scientists and amateur astronomers.

Nice. It'll be interesting to see how this might play out when it's time to start landing there again. I would love to see the LRO data get integrated into this next year, too. One irritating thing (that isn't Google's fault) is that in many parts, the craters look like domes! This is because the illumination from the Sun is coming from some direction other than down, toward the bottom of your screen. As humans, we evolved to perceive objects as if they are illuminated from above, and when they aren't, it confuses our poor brains. Depressions look like bumps, and vice-versa. In fact, this can be avoided by having different data able to be put into the database; the Lunar Ranger series mapped almost the entire Moon, so I bet there are more images to choose from. But back on topic, I can think of lots of APIs (little programs designed to use the interface) to go with this one! And once my book is done, I'll have time to fool around... And no, when you zoom all the way in, it's not made of cheese.

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