A little-known feature in Google Maps lets you explore our local solar system - here's how to visit Mercury, Venus, and other planets and moons in Google Maps
Dave SmithMay 21, 2018, 21:41 IST
Pluto is over 4.6 billion miles away, but you can explore it from the comfort of your own computer, right now, thanks to Google Maps.
Most people just use Google Maps to get directions from A to B, but it's also an incredible educational tool in its own right.
Using Google Maps is a great way to learn more about the various cities and countries around the world. But many people might not know that Google Maps can also be used to explore other worlds besides Earth.
That's right: If you visit Google Maps and zoom out far enough, you'll have the option to explore several planets and moons in our own solar system.
First, start anywhere in Google Maps, but make sure you're looking at satellite footage (click on the lower left box to switch). I started in New York City.
Now zoom out, and keep zooming out until you can't anymore.
There! You'll know you did it right if you can't zoom out any further, and if a sidebar pops up that lists the various planets and moons. This is your chance to explore!
Just click on any planet to see it. You can rotate the planet and zoom in to learn more about its geography.
I bet you didn't know there was a region of Mercury called Australia!
Zoom in more and you can see all the various craters on the planet's surface.
All of the imagery for Venus, as well as the other planets and moons, was provided by NASA, with the map data provided by Google.
Here's Io, one of the four moons of Jupiter. It has over 400 active volcanoes, making it the most geologically active object in our local solar system.
In all, Google Maps has 19 different planets and moons covered, including this one: the dwarf planet Pluto.
One non-planet that's also included in Google Maps' space exploration feature is the International Space Station: You can actually explore the station and learn more about it by clicking on various interactive blue 'nodes,' like the one at the center of this screen that tells you more about the 'Cupola' observation deck on the ISS.
Clicking on this other node, for instance, reveals the metal box you're looking at inside the International Space Station is actually a giant space toilet.
There's so much to explore. You can click here to visit Google Maps, turn on satellite view, and keep zooming out until you see the space options.