Google Moon

By Phil Plait | September 18, 2007 4:55 pm

Via the Google blog comes the news of a new app: Google Moon!

It’s very cool, and you can even select the Apollo landing sites. When you zoom in, it shows you the locations of various moonwalks, pieces of equipment, and more.

They were pretty clear about its use in the press release:

Google Moon’s visible imagery and topography are aligned with the recently updated lunar coordinate system and can be used for scientifically accurate mission planning and data analysis. The new site is designed to be user- friendly and encourage the exchange of data and ideas among scientists and amateur astronomers.

Nice. It’ll be interesting to see how this might play out when it’s time to start landing there again. I would love to see the LRO data get integrated into this next year, too.

One irritating thing (that isn’t Google’s fault) is that in many parts, the craters look like domes! This is because the illumination from the Sun is coming from some direction other than down, toward the bottom of your screen. As humans, we evolved to perceive objects as if they are illuminated from above, and when they aren’t, it confuses our poor brains. Depressions look like bumps, and vice-versa.

In fact, this can be avoided by having different data able to be put into the database; the Lunar Ranger series mapped almost the entire Moon, so I bet there are more images to choose from.

But back on topic, I can think of lots of APIs (little programs designed to use the interface) to go with this one! And once my book is done, I’ll have time to fool around…

And no, when you zoom all the way in, it’s not made of cheese.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA

Comments (22)

Links to this Post

  1. A Ler…-- Rastos de Luz | September 19, 2007
  1. Hopefully they will integrate some of the hi-res pictures from Jaxa’s SELENE project!

  2. KaiYeves

    Kaguya, Kurt, not SELENE.

  3. Kullat Nunu

    Kaguya is SELENE’s nickname.

  4. bigjohn

    What Apollo moon walk?

  5. Mus

    Funny, I just randomly re-found google moon a couple of days ago. I had seen the cheese one before, and was surprised that it had changed.

    Anyway, I also found google mars. It’s at

  6. Huh, they changed it.

    Google Moon has been around for a while. However, it used to be when you zoomed in all the way, you got cheese. Yep, the zoomed moon was made of cheese.

  7. mike

    IMHO it would have been better if they had included a more complete list of large man-made objects on the moon:

  8. bumhaskins

    I was dissapointed to see that all they have for the artifacts (or at least the AS-506 LM is just an outline). You would think that having a full picture would shut up the hoaxers, maybe I missed something. Anyway Google Moon is still cool, I can’t wait till we go back. I’m trying to get into NASA in a few years!

  9. Cheddar Moon Truth Movement

    Why must you continue to support the oppressive shackles of the “rock” moon conspiracy. We have known for thousands of years that the moon was made of cheddar cheese, but sheep like you see one fake video of men walking on it (filmed on an ersatz cheese-like set in Wisconsin) and blindly obey. Have you ever heard of skepticism good sir?! Where are the blast craters?!

    -Cheddar Moon Truth Movement

  10. Remember, this is Google Moon. if you want to add something to it, just do it!

  11. Fred Shuman

    This is amazing!

    Currently, they seem to have it:
    1) in Mercator, and
    2) with surface features shown with the Sun at local meridian

    Unfortunately, while this choice of illumination (2) gives sharp relief for the polar regions, the low latitudes are washed out.

    The Mercator projection (1) makes it similar to Google maps for Earth; I wonder whether they would consider making it more like Google Earth, in which the planet is a globe that you zoom in on and rotate in 3 axes (through planet-center — E-W, N-S, up-down) plus one axis, left-right, at the surface. Now THAT would be fantastic!!

  12. Zero

    Thanks for the heads-up though. I’ve seen the cheese one previously which always cracked me up. Minor computer scientist complaint though:
    “APIs (little programs designed to use the interface)..”
    API is actually the interface that programmers use, not the programs created. See

  13. gp

    Hey Phil. First of all, Bad Astronomy is accessible again in Malaysia…starting from today. Dont know what happened for the past two days.

    And yes, can still remember the cheese moon…that was nice…


  14. Dr. BA said:

    And no, when you zoom all the way in, it’s not made of cheese.

    Awww really? It used to do that, and I thought it was funny.


  15. I can’t wait to see how the moon hoax guys treat this.

  16. SpikeNut

    Neat app. People sure are going to look funny standing on their heads while they’re looking at the craters.

  17. NGC 3314

    I think you mean Lunar Orbiter. The three successful Rangers hard-landed and sent back high-resolution TV images of quite small areas before each one performed a lithobraking maneuver. (Kids today! – and how often does someone say that about you these days, Phil?)

  18. Xenu

    There’s some “alien artefacts”, im waiting for some folks to jump on it and add those blobs to the “face” legend.

  19. KaiYeves

    So, where were the Olympics? Turin or Torino? It’s the same thing, really.

  20. What would also be cool would be to send some cameras to the moon, then combine Google Moon with Google Street Level, to get an astronaut’s-eye view of the surface.

  21. Don’t forget, there is also Google Mars:


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