Archive for January, 2008

Google Sky Orrery x3

January 22nd, 2008 1 comment

Current Relative Positions of Inner Planets, in GSkyRelative Positions of Outer Planets, in GSky

Two new additions to the family of animated Solar System diagrams for Google Earth Sky.

These Orrerys combine KML Screen Overlays to display a top-down view of current planet positions in the top left corner of the screen, and run on a 3 month time-loop alongside the default Our Solar System Layer.

To squeeze everything into the corner of the window, the original animation showed the planets spread evenly apart – only giving part of the story about relative locations.  Here I’ve added two further options which split the Solar System in two,  and display accurate average orbital distances:

  • A chart showing the positions of the Inner (Terrestrial) planets; Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars
  • Another for the Outer (Jovian) planets;  Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, plus the Earth for reference.

These are available alongside the original through a single KML Networklink. 

Planets in Orbit (60kB)

– Download the file and select the option you want displayed.

– Then click the Time Slider play button.

If the networklink is stored under My Places, the file will automatically update either if Google change the time span of their planets layer, or when I add  anything else – e.g. a diagram including the Moon.

ZIPScribble Animated

January 20th, 2008 5 comments

Animated ZIP (code) Scribble Map in Google EarthThis is a Google Earth, time animated version of the U.S .ZIP map in my post from a couple of days ago. Based on Robert Kosara’s ZipScribble maps. 

The KML file contains 43,000 lines connecting every ZIP code in the country, TimeStamped in ascending numerical order.  

Just a slight warning: This is a very large and detailed time animation. It runs smoothly on my 3-year old PC (the little GIF above is from a real time capture), but may not work on some computers.

ZIP Scribble Map (USA) (650kB)

Viewing the File

  • Hit the play button in the Time Control, top right of the screen, or just drag the slider left or right. 
  • time_delta_google_earth.JPGExpand the time span to increase the number of ZIP Codes displayed at any time.
  • Deselect folders in the left sidepanel to alter the scope of the animation.
  • Change the visualization to a cumulative animation by selecting clamp beginning of time window in the time option dialog  – accessed through the white clock icon to the left of the time slider.


  • The numbers shown under the Time Control are 5-digit ZIP codes without the leading zeros.
  • States are different Colours. No significance in the choice of colour – it’s just for contrast with one another and the terrain.
  • White lines indicate the sequence jumping a State boundary.

P.S.  for a different take on visualizing ZIPs,  check out Ben Fry’s  Java, zipdecode.

KML ZIP Scribble Map

January 18th, 2008 2 comments

US ZIP code Locations, in Google Earth

About a year ago, Robert Kosara at published a fascinating set of visualizations demonstrating the overall structure of ZIP (and post) codes in various countries, for obvious reasons he called them ZipScribble maps. Robert compiled  PDF maps of the USA,  and a dozen more countries

The concept he uses is remarkably straightforward:

 1) Plot the centroid of every ZIP code area onto a map.
 2) Join these with lines, dot-to-dot, in ascending numerical (or alphabetical) order.

I know several people did similar things for various parts of the world, but I don’t think anyone ever published one of these in KML (?)

Anyway, as you can see from the picture at the top of the post, inspired by Robert’s maps I’ve compiled a visualization for Google Earth, showing a complete set of 43,000 U.S. ZIP codes.  Bordering States are shown in different colours.  White lines indicate where the sequence jumps across a State boundary.

It’s interesting to combine the file with Google Earth’s default Borders and Labels layer to see how the organization of the codes relates to the underlying geography.

Download the file here:

ZIP Scribble Map (USA) (320kB)

There’s a chance this one might cause problems on some computers – 40,000 data points is a lot of information for GE to handle 🙂 .   Before switching on all the States (only a quarter are on by default) it’s probably wise to close any other KML files, or complex layers like Weather and 3D buildings.

Data Source:

1999 U.S. Postal Service ZIP Codes (U.S . Census website)

2200 Biggest Airports in the USA

January 13th, 2008 3 comments

Every Airport in the USA, Google EarthWhere are the busiest commercial passenger airports in the USA, and how are they distributed across the country ?

This Google Earth KML file mashes up a geographic database of FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) airport codes,  with passenger boarding totals (enplanements) for the year 2006.

Download the file here:

2200 Airports (USA) (150kB)

Airport Passenger Information in Google EarthIcon dots are scaled in size according to number of passengers, Atlanta-Hartsfield being the biggest. Similarly, the colours run through dark blue to red – Atlanta the reddest.

  • Hover the mouse over each dot to see the passenger totals and airport name. 
  • Double click an Icon for information on where it ranks amongst the list of the busiest, and how the stats break down into scheduled and unscheduled boardings. 
  • Navigate up and down the league table using the arrows either side of the ranking position.
  • Airport Map Folder ViewRestrict the range of airports shown by turning off folders in the left sidepanel.

Note:  There’s a chance GE might slow down some older machines with this file open – I think it’s worthwhile seeing all the information on screen at once with this one,  no attempt to dynamically limited which parts of the KML are shown at any one time (Regions)


Major Google Sky Update

January 10th, 2008 1 comment

Google’s LatLong blog has announced a bunch of changes to the default Google Earth Sky Layers. Some of my files are closely tied to the update, so here’s a quick list of the KML addons directly affected.  Check out Gearthblog’s post for the other main additions:

Planet Locations
Orrery in GoogleSkyFirstly I’ve updated my Orrey animation. This is the file that shows a simplified, top down representation of the solar system, designed to run alongside GoogleSky’s planet location time animations in the Default Layers – look under ‘Our Solar System’.

Google have updated the Layer to run from January to April 2008, and decreased the time steps in the time line from 1 hour to 15 minutes.  I’ve tweaked my file to synchronize with this.

Constellation boundaries
Constellation Borders in Google Earth SkyAs I (sort of) predicted, GSky now provides it’s own set of constellation borders by default (under Backyard Astronomy). These are displayed as coloured polygons. This obviously reduces the need for anyone to use my KML constellation add-on.  But mine do still have some use – the two sets combine pretty neatly – with Google Sky’s polygons fading out when you zoom, and my lines staying on permanently.

Real Sized Planets
Real Sized Planets, Star Wars and KML Gallery, in Google Earth SkyLastly, Google Earth’s Welcome Tour now includes a direct link to my Real sized planets file (thanks Google! 🙂 ), the KML Gallery plus Joey Wade and Frank Taylor’s cool Millennium Falcon, Star Wars animation.