Google Maps Does the Solar System: Explore Mars, Venus, Europa and More Without Leaving Earth

Google Maps has long been a great way to better understand how neighborhoods on Earth fit together—but yesterday, the site decided to take mapping out of this world, adding 12 new planets and moons for visitors to explore. The update comes shortly after this summer's announcement that the International Space Station could be explored through the site.

10_17_google mars
"Oh, I hear Candor has the best pizza places past that great one by Juventae Fons." Google, ESO/S. Brunier, NOAA-NGDC

To access the feature, you are likely best off starting from the specific extraterrestrial Google Maps URL, although you can also scroll out from the maps landing page. Either way, you'll start your journey, as is fitting, with a beautiful view of our own planet and the Milky Way that surrounds it.

Hello, home. Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Nav, NGA, GEBCO, IBCAO, Landsat/Copernicus, ESO/S. Brunier, NOAA-NGDC, Google

Just don't try to simply search for the world you'd like to visit; that does not quite get you where you want to go.

Not quite as adventurous as I was hoping for, there. Google

All told, there are 17 worlds to explore from the new hub, including the four inner planets and Pluto, the International Space Station, 10 moons and the asteroid Ceres.

The gas giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are not included, presumably since the features our spacecraft see as they zoom over them are the clouds of their thick atmospheres, not any sort of surface.

Europa is one of the leading contenders for finding the conditions life needs to survive. NASA/Google, INEGI

But these giants are left out completely. Several of their most scientifically intriguing moons are featured in the new initiative, including Jupiter's Enceladus and Europa and Saturn's Titan, all of which scientists think may be host to the characteristics needed to foster life.

That said, the update isn't all about fame—Google Maps has also chosen to include little-known moons like Saturn's Dione and Jupiter's Ganymede.

Rove around the battered surface of Dione, which may hide an underground ocean. NASA/Google

These both deserve a moment in the spotlight: Dione may feature an underground ocean and Ganymede is such a large moon it actually dwarfs the tiny planet Mercury.

Google Maps has also input information about many of the features it flags, like their dimensions and the origins of their name—the closest extraterrestrial equivalent of all the information we're used to pulling from the site about our favorite Chinese restaurant's opening hours.

A sulcus is a type of depression, in this case found on the solar system's largest asteroid, Ceres. NASA/Google

Be aware that street signs in your new neighborhood are still subject to change. Pluto, for example, only has 14 officially named features, since all names in space must be vetted and approved by the International Astronomical Union. These names were proposed by scientists on the New Horizons team that flew by Pluto in 2015 after public input.

Virgil Fossae is an official name, but many of the other features on Pluto may still undergo name changes. NASA/Google

But if you're new to the neighborhood, there's nothing like being able to explore without getting sore feet.