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Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

I decided to follow the meme (post #1, post #2) of posting Google Maps and MSN Live maps of your home.  I spent a little time pondering the security implications of this, and then ultimately figured that it’d be fine as I’m not disclosing my address or anything. 

So, first the Google Maps picture of our little plot

google maps 

Then the MSN Live picture, which i find to be superior in quality and “youth”

 MNS Live maps

We had a driveway put in a few years back and you can see that on the MSN Live picture, so that tells me it’s more up to date.  Also, I find I can zoom in a little more on MSN Live and can actually see the little toy sandbox with umbrella we had out there for Jaden some time back…

close up of house

The Ford Explorer is also there for our viewing convenience.

Now what I *don’t* understand is the shadows.  The MSN Live map shows the shadows correctly – and I can tell that this was taken mid-morning since the Sun rises in the East, the shadows are to the West.  In between that umbrella and the house we have a small deck that we can sit on and read, and it’s nice because it’s so cool in the mornings, and not until noon or sometimes after do we get sun on the deck itself.

However, the Google Maps picture shows the shadows going NORTH.  Maybe it was at a time in the year when the ecliptic is lower than the equator, giving our house a shadow to the north instead of straight up-and-down.  Obviously the sun was not directly overhead because our house has a pretty long shadow going towards the north. 

Any astronomers out there want to guess what month that our latitude (Austin, TX is 30 deg north) would have that kind of shadow during midday?

And lo, the people did comment thus:


  1. Avitable says:

    That’s quite a piece of property that you have!

  2. whall says:

    Avi, yeah, call it luck. House #3 is supposed to replace Houses #1 and #2, and may actually BE where #2 is, or in the treed area out front. House #2 is temporary either way; it’s just a matter of how temporary.

    So shouldn’t we as Americans assume that if we can see this, then the Gov’t can actually zoom into a license plate or a piece of paper?

    And if we can see THIS detail from above our atmosphere, tell me again why we can’t point a camera to the moon and see the flag we left up there so we can prove that we went there? Don’t tell me “contrast” if we can do these pictures of the earth.

  3. Avitable says:

    It’s hard to get a sense of scale from it, too. How big is your lot exactly?

    Are you one of those people who doesn’t believe we went to the moon?

  4. whall says:

    The lot is a shade under 3.5 acres. Plenty of room for the dogs, tarantulas, corpses, etc. It’s the kind of place where we have a well, septic tank, no city services, rural electricity, etc. We have an excuse for not knowing our neighbors – they’re a quarter mile away! 🙂 No cul-de-sac’s, no sidewalks, no Jehovah’s Witnesses (well, maybe one or two every couple of years).

    re: the moon – let’s just say I’m open to the idea. I seriously think we did, but reading about it and contemplating it is fun, and maybe a little “real”.

  5. sue says:

    Very nice. I checked my house and found in the Google maps it wasn’t even there yet (we built three years ago) but it was in the MSN maps. However, neither one were nearly as clear and crisp as yours. 🙁

  6. Ren says:

    Not being able to see the evidence of the lunar landing from earth is simply a factor of size and distance. We don’t have any telescopes, including Hubble, large enough to resolve objects that small from as far away as the moon.

    A good explanation is available at http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=134 , a salient quote from which is:

    The flag is 125 cm (4 feet) long, and you would need an optical wavelength telescope around 200 meters (~650 feet) in diameter to see it. The largest optical wavelength telescope that we have now is the Keck Telscope in Hawaii which is 10 meters in diameter. The Hubble Space Telescope is only 2.4 meters in diameter – much too small!

  7. whall says:

    Sue, yeah, they’re not always so up-to-date.

    Mid-last-year, when someone I know moved, they were in a subdivision that didn’t show up on Google Maps, even for getting driving directions. I had emailed him a satellite photo of the area they lived in and added that “maybe they need to do some updating”:

    and he responded with “either that, or I’m going to sh*t my pants when I get home”

    I laughed for a looooong time at that. I just checked Google Maps again for his address, and half the subdivision is present in the photo. Slowly but surely it’s getting filled in.

    Too bad they don’t archive the photos for a given area and let you do time-lapse display or something. THAT would be very cool. So in the meantime, I take snapshots when I can if I notice things changing.

  8. whall says:

    Ren, I’m not sure I follow the math. What constitutes “seeing the flag?” I don’t mean making a 4-foot thing visible enough to take up the whole screen. I just mean being able to see that there’s one there. Even the web page at http://www.thekeyboard.org.uk/Did%20we%20land%20on%20the%20Moon.htm did a good job at working on debunking all the myths, but it’s hard to get through his “look how idiotic this is” phrasing and “boy, I fell off my chair laughing at how stupid this is!” Anyone who uses those kinds of supportive “arguments” goes down a few notches in my book because it really doesn’t matter what facts are laid out – the tone says it all.

    I still don’t get it, tho, on the HST (Hubble Space Telescope)’s inabilities. The link shows the best it can do at one of the crater sites. And I just don’t believe it. I had imagined that, say, the horsehead nebula HAS to be smaller in the sky to HST’s point of view than a flag would be on the moon. I mean, seeing galaxies inside of galaxies? That’s like a pinprick hole, right? About as big as, say, a flag on the moon?

    I’m not saying you have to explain it to me, but in order for me to understand it, you do.

  9. Ren says:

    Actually, in this context “seeing the flag?” means seeing a dot where the flag is. To actually see details of the flag requires an even larger telescope. The link has more details of this and even gives the math at the bottom.

    I think the main problem you are having is that you don’t have a proper intuition about how large the galaxies are. There is a good comparison here between looking at Pluto and looking at a remote star cluster. http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=281

    The individual star clusters within the galaxy are about the same “sky size” as Pluto — and surely you can believe that Pluto is larger in “sky size” than man-made objects left on the moon? And the images of Pluto are nothing to write home about.

  10. whall says:

    Ren, I *am* expecting a lunar landing unit, or flag or debris left on the moon to be larger, sky size, than pluto. That’s what common sense tells me without going through the math – “would pluto look as big to HST as a lunar lander on the moon?” So I guess I should go through the math tho.

    KEEP IN MIND that I fully expect myself to make mistakes here, so help me out if I mess up, or if I assume something stupid. I do that a lot.

    The moon is what, a quarter million miles away? A little more, little less, depending on if it’s at apogee or perigree? Pluto is what, anywhere between 20 and 49 AU’s (astronomical units) away, which is what, 1.8 billion miles away at it’s closest and 4.5 billion miles away at it’s furthest. Pluto has a mean radius of 745 miles, meaning it should look 1.5 miles across (diameter) if we look right at it.

    Now I don’t know at what rate things look smaller as they get farther away. I’m sure there’s some “Massive Perspective Law” or something governing why the Sun looks as big as a quarter when the quarter is held at arm’s length. Does something look twice as big 100 feet away as it does 200 feet away? Is it linear? logarithmic? I have no idea.

    But I still think that – something that’s 1.5 miles across at 2-4 billion miles away should NOT look bigger than something that’s a few yards across at 225,000 miles away. What I figure, then, is that the moon is point zero one percent (.0001125) as far away from the earth as Pluto is. Hubble Space Telescope orbits at 366 miles above the earth, so it’s distance is close enough for approximations.

    So, what’s .01 percent of 1.5 miles? I’ll tell you. Less than a foot.

    Help me believe.

  11. whall says:

    btw, I fully expect that this blog entry and my google searches and the comments have been categorized and scanned by the men in black, and something might coincidentally happen to me on the way home.

    Keep the faith.

  12. Ren says:

    Perceived size varies linearly with distance.

    Diameter of arbitrary man-made object on the moon: 20 ft.
    Average distance from Earth to the moon: 238857 mi.
    Diameter of Pluto: 1380 mi. (7,286,400 ft)
    Minimum distance from Earth to Pluto: ~ 2,500,000,000 mi.
    Maximum distance form Earth to Pluto: ~ 4,500,000,000 mi.

    Ratio for arbitrary man-made object: .000084 ft/mi
    Ratio for Pluto at minimum distance: .002915 ft/mi
    Ratio for Pluto at maximum distance: .001619 ft/mi

    So even at maximum distance, the apparent size of Pluto is over 19 times as large as a 20-foot diameter object on the moon.

    Does that help?

  13. Ren says:

    I had to re-read your comment several times before I understood your conclusion. It looks like your mistake was when you said, “Pluto has a mean radius of 745 miles, meaning it should look 1.5 miles across (diameter) if we look right at it.” I don’t know how you went from 745 mile radius to 1.5 mile diameter (instead of 1500 mile diameter).

  14. Ren says:

    I said, “So even at maximum distance, the apparent size of Pluto is over 19 times as large as a 20-foot diameter object on the moon.”

    Put another way, an object on the moon would need a diameter of about 385 feet to appear the same size from Earth as Pluto does.

  15. whall says:

    Ren, yup, that’s where I went wrong – 745 x 2 is 1.5, didn’t you know that? 🙂

    So where are all the closeups of the moon? Even something like 400′ across? I wanna see what we can see! I think it’s being hidden from us.

  16. Ren Maddox says:

    Probably not very satisfying, but here you go:


    Note that it says that the HST “can resolve features as small as 280 feet across”, which matches up pretty well with the Pluto comparison.

  17. Cheldear says:

    I looked at my house when you posted this, but the pic looked really old. It definitely wasn’t recent…


  18. Toben says:

    To go back to your original posting, you commented that you didn’t understand how the google maps photo showed the shadows going north while the MSN Live shadows show “correctly” to the “west.” First, just to be precise, the MSN Live shadows are to the northwest not the west and the google maps shadows are most accurately described as in-between NNE and NE. Second, the explanation as to the difference is simple: the earth’s fixed 23.5 degree tilt which, especially in winter, causes the sun to be south of us in the sky. Thus from sunrise to sunset shadows will extend from extreme WNW to extreme ENE, respectively, never quite reaching due west or east because of the spherical curvature of the earth’s surface. So the MSN Live image was taken, as you stated, in the mid-morning sometime when the shadows would be extending to the NW. The google maps image was taken sometime in the early afternoon when the shadows would have just passed due north and into the NNE direction.

  19. Janna says:

    There’s got to be SOME way a good stalker could make use of this…

    Jannas last blog post..Note to self: Behave Suspiciously

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