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Imagine being able to observe our planet from a hundred thousand miles above. You’d be able to see the big picture, the continents and oceans as they really are, or you’d be able to see things as detailed as your street and home. Google let’s us explore without leaving the comfort of your desk. Best of all, this technology isn’t just for budding geographers – it also works with Mars and the night sky.

Google Earth is the flagship program in the collection. It takes satellite imagery combined with other geographic data to show us a picture of the entire planet. You may have seen it used on TV - a fly-by of a far away city or country. But this isn’t just for news programs showing us exotic locations. Anyone can download and use the software to learn about the earth. The software is free and easy to use, a perfect substitute for the classroom globe.

But the software is so much more than just a globe. It combines with other Google technologies to connect geographic locations with pictures, news and information, and other data useful to students, travelers, and researchers alike. Some cities even have 3D renderings of the skyline, adding another level of learning. It truly must be experienced to be believed.

Google Maps is the well-known web-based mapping software. It allows users to find addresses, get directions, and get information about landmarks. It uses the same imagery and geographic data as Google Earth, but it’s aimed more to drivers and joggers than students and travelers.

Google Sky uses the Google Maps software combined with NASA planetary surface photography and geographic data to let users navigate and discover our solar system and beyond. Users can search for constellations, planetary landmarks, rover landing sites, and more, then connect to external sites with more information. Users can even view the night sky using a traditional photographic view, which simulates the naked eye looking through a telescope, or they can use infrared or microwave imagery to see objects that would otherwise be invisible. Google is also constantly developing specialized versions of their mapping software to focus more attention on various sky objects, such as Mars and our moon.