OBJECTIVE: The primary objective is to examine Google Earth's model of the shape and size of the Earth to see how and whether it fits with models from your readings and lecture. Secondarily you will gain familiarity with Google Earth controls for measuring coordinates and distances.
Google Earth is an interesting resource for getting a quick image-based geographic overview, a modern, web-dependent, high-tech version of the "trusty old" map or aerial photograph. You will use Google Earth to determine coordinates for several places, the distances between them (measured in meters), and compare those measures to see what they might reveal about the model of the Earth's shape used in this software. In particular, you will be looking to see whether GE uses a spheroid, an oblate spheroid, or a prolate one for its model. (If you do not have access to GE on a computer of your own, we can arrange access via one of the university's computer labs.)
To prime your thinking, how might GE calculate distances between points? It might...
USING GOOGLE EARTH: Using Google Earth, it becomes easy to determine and record geographic coordinates, and to measure distances and the lengths of the routes between points. (I hope that you'll enjoy using this tool and will find it helpful this term. Take a little time to become familiar with it.)
Download and installation. See: Google Earth web-site.
Tools : options : 3D View tab... Show Lat/Lon as decimal degrees. Show elevation in meters, and distances in meters,.
View : check "Status Bar".
Location of the pointer (hand) is displayed in the Status Bar as decimal degrees of latitude and longitude and meters of elevation. (You could transcribe these from there.)
Push-pin (place-marker), Polygon, and Path Tools. Click the tool. Enter a mnemonic name. Set style and color. Digitize. (finally) click "OK" to close the panel. (You can reset the "properties" of a place-marker, polygon or path; right-click its name in the side-bar.)
Ruler (measurement) Tool. Set the units (meters?). Select (straight) line or (connect the dots) path length. Click along the path or line. Read the result from the panel.
You can save the image (including your digitized paths) as a 'jpg' file. File : Save : Save Image...
You can save the coordinates of your push-pins and paths to a .kml file: In the side-bar, under the "Places" tab, Right-click the "My Places" (or "Temporary Places") line and select "Save as..." from the drop-down menu. Enter a filename (like, your initials + "-366.kml").
Measure the following distances (in meters) using the "ruler" tool. Record the distances as you go.
|From Place --- To Place||Distance on (Google) Earth (meters)|
|North Pole to Equator along a meridian|| |
|Ninty (90) degrees along the Equator: 45W to 135W|| |
|One (1) degree along the Equator: 0W to 1W|| |
|One (1) degree along a meridian from the North Pole (90N) to 89N.|| |
|One (1) degree along a meridian: 0N to 1N|| |
|One (1) degree along the 60N parallel.|| |
|One (1) degree along the 45th parallel:|| |
Examine what happens in mountainous terrain by measuring the distance between N 28.05, E 86.85 and N 27.9, E 87.0 (across Mt Everest) with the "terrain on" and "terrain off".
Examine what happens in mountainous versus flat terrain by measuring the similar distance between N 28.05, E 39.95 and N 27.9, E 40.1 in the with the terrain on and off and comapring it with the the distances above.
|Terrain on:|| || |
|Terrain off:|| || |
Finally, try it 'old school' with a pair of coordinates using the spherical trigonometry equation above. I.e., where b and c are the co-latitudes of two points, that is their angles "down from the North Pole" and A is the angle between their meridians around the North Pole. This gives an angular separation along the great circle that includes the two points. If you are working in radians, assume a spherical earth with a radius of 6,371,007 meters, and mulitply your angle in radians by that. If you are working in degrees, assume a spherical earth with a circumference of 40,030,20 m, then multiply your angle in dgrees by 111,195 meters per degree). lets you estimate the distance in linear rather than angular units.
For example, given two places...
Point Arena, CA (Lighthouse) latitude: 38.954443 co-latitude: (90.0 - 38.954443) or 51.045557 longitude: -123.740678 Honolulu, HI (Aloha Tower) latitude: 21.306971 co-latitude: (90.0 - 21.306971) or 68.693029 longitude: -157.866041 longitude separation: (-123.740678 - -157.866041 =) 34.125363 distance = arcos( (cos(b)*cos(c) + sin(b)*sin(c)*cos(A)) * 111.195 km/degree = acos[(cos(51.045)*cos(68.693) + (sin(51.045)*sin(68.693)*cos(34.125)] * (111.195 km per degree) = arcos[.6287 * .3633 + .7776 * .9316 * .8278] * 111.195 (km/degree) = arcos[.22845 + .59974] * 111.195 (km/degree) = 34.086 (degrees) * 111.195 (km/degree) = 3790.267 km (That is pretty close to what I get with the distance measuring tool in Google Earth... 3792.66 km. The dfference is 2.393 km or about 0.06%. Probably more difference due to rounding and approximatoin on the radius than to pointing errors.)
Try one of your own!
Include a table or list of the distances you found. Write a brief description (i.e., less than a page) on what your observations of distances in Google Earth suggest about the model of the shape of the earth that Google Earth uses. Is the GE model spherical, oblate, or prolate? Does Google Earth use terrain in measuring distance? Why do you think so?
Submit this as hard copy.