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Google maps has a new (to me) feature, and it is pretty awesome! If you start at maps.google.com, switch to Earth view, and zoom all the way out, you get a view something like the one shown below.

It has a lot of features, namely

  • The Sun
  • The Moon
  • The bright and dark sides of the Earth
  • The bright and dark sides of the Moon
  • The Milky Way
  • The dark side of the Earth shows anthropogenic light

Are these features geometrically correct? Is the inclination of the galactic plane wrt to the plane of the ecliptic correct? Is the angular size of the Moon wrt to that of the Earth correct? Is it possible to find the other planets?

enter image description here

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Google tries to use live images from the Slough Space Camera (and the Hubble as far as I know), so yes, I would assume that all of the geometrics are accurate or at least extremely close. You can actually use a feature called "sky" with Google Earth which enables you to:

"Check out the new Slooh Space Camera layer to see live images of galaxies, objects and more. View constellations and the movements of the planets. Hear astronomy podcasts and read celestial research from expert sources. Create and share your own imagery, placemarks and more."

Check out this link, it would probably be the best place to start (and it's super cool because there is a video with a former astronaut!) :

http://www.google.com/earth/explore/showcase/sky.html

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