As a kid, many of us have dreamt of being an astronaut.
Perhaps we’ve imagined going out in space “and boldly go where no man has ever gone before” – as the “Star Trek” quote goes.
Well, Google Maps now allow us, earthlings, to explore moons and four planets of the solar system as well as the International Space Station (ISS) without having to leave home.
Google Maps Product Manager Stafford Marquardt announced in a blog post that aside from our home planet, you can now explore Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Pluto.
You can also take a tour of the ISS as it orbits around Earth.
You can also explore the moons Ceres, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Mimas, Enceladus, Dione, Rhea, Titan, and Iapetus.
How were the maps of our neighbors in space drawn?
Google Maps used images of Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Pluto transmitted by satellites or rovers (remember the Mars Rover?)
Science Alert said the photos of Mercury came from Messenger sent between 2011 and 2015.
Google cited mapping companies Orion Map Data and AfriGIS for data about Venus.
As for pictures of Saturn’s moons, they were sent by the spacecraft Cassini-Huygens.
“Twenty years ago, the spacecraft Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral on a journey to uncover the secrets of Saturn and its many moons.”
“During its mission, Cassini recorded and sent nearly half a million pictures back to Earth, allowing scientists to reconstruct these distant worlds in unprecedented detail.”
Cassini-Huygens ended its 20-year exploratory mission last September 15 and plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn.
(Read also: Cassini Says Goodbye With Final Photos of Saturn)
With Google Maps, Marquardt said a user could “explore the icy plains of Enceladus, where Cassini discovered water beneath the moon’s crust—suggesting signs of life.”
“Peer beneath the thick clouds of Titan to see methane lakes. Inspect the massive crater of Mimas—while it might seem like a sci-fi look-a-like, it is a moon, not a space station.”
Marquardt acknowledged astronomical artist Björn Jónsson for putting together the planetary maps of Europa, Ganymede, Rhea, and Mimas.
Jónsson used images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Just a heads up though. The maps are not perfect, according to Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society.
Mashable reported that Lakdawalla said through her Twitter account (@elakdawalla) early this week that some of the moons have “mislabelled craters and features.”
“Anybody know who I should talk to at @Google to let them know that several of the icy moon maps have names & image offset by 180 degrees?”
Lakdawalla pointed out in Google Maps that the crater Herschel on Saturn’s moon Mimas was on the opposite side of the actual location.
Lakdawalla later got in touch with someone from Google to discuss the “problematic maps,” but Mashable said, “the company still has to fix the maps.”
Science Alert, meanwhile, noted that Pluto data was taken from New Horizons spacecraft, “so a lot of it is pretty blurry.”
“But the detail on the Sleipnir Fossa and the Morgoth Macula is breathtaking.”
Try out the Google Maps feature that allows you to explore planets and moons and share your comments about it below.
The post Take A Tour Of The Solar System Via Google Maps appeared first on Guild of Bloggers.