I often go out and look at the stars. Sometimes I take a telescope or binoculars — astronomy’s a hobby. Every single time I spend more than a couple of minutes gazing at the night sky I see at least one satellite whizzing by: north to south, south to north, west to east, there’s always a little dot somewhere speeding overhead.
Some of those hundreds of satellites, and other sources, contribute images to Google Earth.
If you’ve already downloaded and experimented with Google Earth you may have looked for your house or workplace, or checked up on the neighbourhood. Depending where you live you may see a highly detailed image, or one that doesn’t allow you to zoom in very far.
For example, I can zoom in from an initial 11,000 Km viewpoint to about 150 metres above the Beehive in Wellington and still see details of the building. On the other hand, there’s a whole chunk of the Hutt Valley missing: view it from any closer than 50 Km height and all you see is big, blocky pixels.
Layers on Google Earth.
Google Earth offers a great deal more than views of your house from the air. Layers of information are available — photos, movies, descriptions, roads, buildings, weather, news reports, and other special content.
First go to the View menu and show the Sidebar. Several panels appear on the left. At the bottom of the Sidebar is a Layers section. Open up the Gallery item and check the boxes beside Google News, New York Times and YouTube.
At the top of the Sidebar is a Search box. Try searching for ‘cyclone nargis’, ‘myanmar’ or ‘burma’ for example. Google Earth takes you to Myanmar and displays numerous icons for YouTube and other content. Click an icon to watch a video inside Google Earth. A small ‘newspaper’ icon appears near places that are mentioned in Google News. Hover over any icon to see a News headline. Click the icon to see more details in a pop-up window. Details may include text, links, images.
If the icons are all piled up on top of one another zoom in to see them spread out.
Just reading about what’s going on in the world doesn’t always touch us very deeply — photos and videos make a more lasting impression. Google Earth brings together rich media around various locations under the heading of Global Awareness as a way to explain issues and reach out to the public.
Open the Global Awareness subsection, under the Layers section of the Sidebar, and double click one of the items, for example, Jane Goodall’s Gombe Chimpanzees or USHMM: Crisis in Darfur. Make sure you check the box beside the item to enable icon display. Google Earth goes to your chosen location and presents numerous icons. Click icons to view further information, including blog posts, images and other rich data that presents a coherent view of the topic you’ve chosen.
Often the content that is displayed provides further links to information available on the web.
Or perhaps check the ARKive: Endangered Species section under Global Awareness and the ‘travel’ to New Zealand. Read about the endangered Kokako, for example.
More Earth Features.
There’s much more to Google Earth than spotting your own house from space. Explore the Layers section to find out about the world we live in.
At the KML Gallery you can download tiny Keyhole Markup Language (KML) files that overlay graphical information on Google Earth, for example, a visual representation of world oil consumption or world population density.
Google Earth Outreach:
Gives non-profits and public benefit organizations like yours the knowledge and resources you need to reach their minds and their hearts: See how other organizations have benefited from Google Earth Outreach, then learn how to create maps and virtual visits to your projects that get users engaged and passionate about your work.
Google Earth is an exciting, free piece of software. Use it for fun, entertainment, education and awareness. But keep in mind that it requires a broadband Internet connection.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, June 2008.