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Hands on with new Google Earth

Monday, March 30, 2009

In case you haven't played around with the new Google Earth 5.0 beta, you might be pleasantly surprised by what's been added to this popular free software.

Specifically, we've been blown away by the new Historical Imagery feature, which lets you go back in time to see some areas in a "before and after" setting, be it the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the melting of the Grinnell Glacier in Montana, or the evolution of Las Vegas from the Rat Pack days to today. To get going, users simply click on the little clock at the top of the page and then move the timeline slider left or right.

The new Ocean features are also worth checking out -- after all, nearly three-quarters of our planet is covered by water -- for the ability to dive beneath the surface and explore 3-D seafloor terrain, including underwater volcanoes off Hawaii (click Ocean on the left side of the screen, under Layers, and start your dive down by pushing your middle mouse wheel in). On a related note, a handful of underwater videos and written content is also accessible from the likes of Jacques Cousteau, National Geographic, and the BBC.

Too bad H.G. Wells isn’t alive to check out Google Mars 3D, featuring high-resolution terrain and other imagery of the red planet and our closest neighbor in the solar system. OK, so we couldn't find the robotically powered Mars Rover, but we found many other points of interest (no Starbucks...yet). If you want to check out Mars, click the icon with an orange Saturn at the top of the screen and select Google Mars from the drop-down menu -- or choose Google Sky, for a view of space, including constellations.

Also new to Google Earth 5.0: Touring, an easy way to record and share your Google Earth experience with others; GPS tracking, for those who want to upload data from supported devices (previously found in the Plus and Pro versions of Google Earth); and the downloadable software is now available in 41 languages (up from 26 in the last version).

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