Week 9: Googling Around

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Getting to Know Google Earth


By now, you should be familiar with Google Earth's Search and Places panels, and you should have mastered using the mouse, keyboard, and navigation controls to zoom, move, look, and tilt your view. Next, you'll learn the basics of Google Earth's Layers panel and toolbar. 


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Get to Know Layers


The Layers panel in Google Earth is like the Table of Contents in AEJEE and ArcGIS, allowing you to turn different data layers on and off in the 3D Viewer display. A major difference, however, is that you can't add or remove layers from the Layers panel, and you can't change the symbolization. 


Layers versus places


The content in the Layers panel is created by Google or its content partners. Google publishes the content you see in the Layers panel, so you can't add your own layers. When new layers become available, they simply appear in the Layers panel the next time you use Google Earth.

The information that appears the Places panel, however, can be created by anyone using Google Earth or KML (Keyhole Markup LanguageKeyhole is the company that created the original version the software, which was later bought by Google and renamed Google Earth.)


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Explore layers


The Layers panel consists of categories and sub-categories of layers. To expand a category, click the + (Win) or ge_triangle_expand (Mac) in front of the category name. You can turn entire categories on and off using the check boxes in front of the category names, or you can expand a category and turn individual sub-categories on and off. Some categories, such as Borders and Labels, have several levels of sub-categories.

  1. Collapse the Search and Places panels by clicking the ge_triangle_collapse in front of the layer titles. This makes room for seeing more layers as you expand the categories.
  2. Turn on the Weather category by clicking the checkbox ge_all_on in front of the category name.
  3. Expand the Weather category by clicking the + (Win) or ge_triangle_expand (Mac) in front of the category name.
  4. Turn individual Weather categoriesClouds, Radar, Conditions, and Informationon and off, and observe the changes in the 3D Viewer.
  5. Note that when some, but not all, of the subcategories in a layer category are turned on, the category display checkbox shows this symbol ge_partial_on . When you launch Google Earth, this is the default state of some of the categories. You can click this box to turn all of the subcategories on or off, but you must expand the category to turn individual subcategories on or off.
  6. When you quit Google Earth, the layer settings are saved. The next time you launch Google Earth on that computer, it will open with the same layers turned on or offunless your computer security settings don't allow saving files.
  7. As you found with other GIS software, the more layers you display, the more cluttered the map will be and the slower the view will update. For the best performance, turn off any layers you don't need.
  8. Invest a few minutes exploring Google Earth's layers and zooming in on places of interest to you. Click the placemarkers in each layer to see what information the layer provides. Be sure to go to a major city or famous landmark like Hoover Dam, the Eiffel Tower, or the Taj Mahal, zoom in near ground level, and turn on the 3D Buildings layer.
  9. When you are finished exploring, turn off any layers you don't need, collapse the categories, and expand the Search and Places panels.



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Get to Know Google Earth Tools


Next, we'll take a quick tour of Google Earth's toolbar, located just above the 3D Viewer.



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ge_hide_show_sidebar Hide/Show Sidebar



  • The Hide/Show Sidebar button lets you hide or show the sidebar (the Search, Places, and Layers panels) when it's not in use, to give you a larger 3D Viewer area. Try hiding and showing the sidebar.

The next group of four tools creates the types of GIS features you learned to use in AEJEE and ArcGIS: points, lines, polygons, and raster images.

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ge_add_placemark Add Placemark


  • The Add Placemark tool lets you create and annotate your own placemarks on the map. Don't practice with this tool yetwe'll show you how to create placemarks in the section below. Your assignment this week will involve creating a placemark.


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ge_add_polygon Add Polygon



  • With the Add Polygon tool, you can create and annotate your own polygon areas on the map. If you have time, you can experiment with this tool later. Think about how your students might use this tool as part of their own scientific research. (What kinds of things would be relevant to record and display as polygons?)


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ge_add_path Add Path


  • Using the Add Path tool, you can create and annotate your own line features on the map. You will use this tool later to create a path for a flying tour of the landscape.


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ge_add_image_overlay Add Image Overlay


  • This tool lets you add your own raster images to the map. You will learn how to do this later in this module, so skip trying out this tool for now. (...unless, of course, you have oodles of spare time to kill.)


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ge_record_tour Record Tour


  • The Record Tour button brings up a simple recording interface that lets you record and save flying tours of Earth (or the Sky, or Mars, or the Moon). You will learn how to do this on the Using Google Earth page.


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ge_show_historical Show Historical Imagery


  • This button turns on the historical imagery capability of Google Earth. When you click the button, a time slider control will open at the top of the 3D Viewer. Drag the slider to the left to view older imagery and to the right to view more recent imagery. Be patient while the images update. Zoom in on an area of interest and try out this tool. When you are finished, click the Show Historical Imagery button again to close the time slider window.


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ge_show_sunlight Show Sunlight


  • This button turns on a feature that simulates sunlight shining on Earth's surface. When you click the button, a time slider control window opens at the top of the 3D Viewer. Drag the slider to the left to move forward in time and to the right to move backward. In sunlight mode, you can click the clock button in the time slider window to animate the changing illumination. (Tip: Zoomed out to the whole globe, this would be a great tool for exploring seasons, length of day, time zones, sunrise and sunset, and other sunshine-related concepts.) When you are finished exploring this feature, click the Show Sunlight button again to close the time slider window.


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ge_switch_planet Switch between Earth, Sky, and Other Planets


  • Click and hold this button for a menu that lets you switch from viewing Earth to viewing the sky (space), Mars, or the Moon. Caution: Some of the other features, such as the sunlight slider, will "work" on Mars and the Moon, but they are still based on sunlight striking Earth. (In other words, a day on the Moon appears to be 24 hours instead of 28 days).


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ge_ruler Show Ruler


  • This button opens the Ruler window, which lets you measure distances on Earth's surface in your choice of units. Google Earth accurately measures large distances on the globe, using great circle paths and spherical coordinates.

    You can measure distances as straight lines ("as the crow flies") or as paths ("breadcrumbs"). For example, students could measure the distance from their homes to school. If you have time, measure a few distances at various zoom levels.

    In the example at right, Larry measured his driving distance from his home to school.


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ge_email Email


  • This button opens the Email window, giving you three options. Each option opens your email client software and automatically attaches a file:
  1. Graphic of 3D View - Attach a jpeg image of the 3D Viewer.
  2. Snapshot of 3D View - Attach a .kmz file that lets recipients open the same view you see in their copy of Google Earth.
  3. Selected Placemark / Folder - Attach a .kmz file containing your placemark, which recipients can add to their Places panel.


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ge_print Print


  • This button opens the Print window, giving you three printing options:
  1. Graphic of 3D View - Print the current 3D View at one of three quality levels.
  2. Most Recent Search Results - Prints an image zoomed into the feature indicated by your most recent search results.
  3. Selected Placemark in My Places - Prints an image zoomed into the selected placemark in your My Places list.


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ge_google_maps View in Google Maps


  • Click this button to open the current 3D view location in Google Maps.



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Practice Creating a Placemark


In this section, you will learn how to create and annotate a placemark.

  1. Choose Google Earth > Preferences...
  2. In the Preferences window, choose Decimal Degrees for the Show Lat/Long option.
  3. Enter the following latitude/longitude coordinates into the Fly To box:
    44.223222, -114.926609
  4. Click the Add Placemark button ge_add_placemark and a New Placemark window opens.
  5. In the New Placemark window, click the pushpin icon in the upper right corner. This opens an Icon window. Click on an icon to choose it. Then OK.
  6. In the New Placemark window, enter a description and give the placemark a name.
  7. Click each of the other three tabs at the top of the New Placemark window: Style / Color, View, and Altitude. For now, don't change any of the settings in these tabs.
  8. Click OK to create the placemark which now shows up in the 3D Viewer.
  9. Look at the Places Panel. You should see the new placemark listed under My Places.
  10. Test the new placemark by going to a different location, like one of the other places in the Sightseeing list. Then double-click the placemark to see if it takes you back to the right spot and view.
  11. Click the placemark icon in the 3D Viewer to open the description balloon. If the description balloon covers up too much of the view, zoom out just a bit more so you can see the context of the scene.

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Create Your Own Placemark

  1. Think of one of your "favorite" places. It could be a favorite vacation spot, restaurant, hiking trail, or just about anything.
  2. Use the Google Earth Search panel and navigation tools to zoom in to your spot, setting the zoom, tilt, and direction to make a pleasing view. Be sure to turn on the Terrain and 3D Buildings layers in the Layers panel, if they're appropriate!
  3. Follow the same procedure as above to create your own placemark.
  4. Once you have created the placemark and tested it, take a screen shot of the entire Google Earth window and save it. This is the screen shot you will post on your Review & Discussion page this week.



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