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The 10 best Google Earth add-ons

Get more than just satellite imagery

Improve your Google Earth experience with by downloading any of a number of user-created mash-ups. We've rounded up the 10 best Google Earth add-ons that will help you see maps from centuries past or even take a virtual cruise.

Follow that plane!

Google Earth fans can be fairly obsessive, as demonstrated by one user collection that pinpoints the position of every known plane that has been spotted flying in Google Earth's satellite imagery. But FBOWeb.com helps you obtain potentially more-useful information: it employs Google Earth to provide live 3D tracking of every single plane flying over the US. On this page you'll see links to home in on a region of interest to you (for example, New York's JFK International Airport).

The data includes all commercial flights as well as many private ones, and it updates every minute (lagging just five minutes behind real time), displaying the flight path as a 3D line around the surface of the virtual globe. Once you complete a free registration process, you can even search for a particular flight number and see exactly how far away the plane is from the airport. It can't make the plane fly any faster, though.

Take a virtual cruise

Back in the dark ages of the internet, people were thrilled to log in to a webcam on the other side of the world and see the trees outside someone's window. Thanks to the incredible leaps in technology since then, these days you can watch the feeds from a webcam attached to the front of a cruise ship sailing somewhere in the middle of the ocean.

The Costa Cruise company has added real-time tracking, webcams and weather information for its entire fleet of ships. You can watch these vessels as they plow through the virtual waters of Google Earth; click on a ship's link to view its webcam feed in a pop-up window.

Seeking out cruise liners that are navigating cold, rainy seas, for example, might make you feel better about being stuck at home.

Join a Worldwide treasure hunt

Geocaching is a modern-day take on the scavenger hunt: participants use superaccurate GPS positioning to locate hidden treasures, or caches. The caches, which can be well concealed, usually contain small trinkets and a log book in which you can record that you found the cache before you put it back for the next person to find.

As of August 2008, Geocaching.com, a central site for the hobby, had almost 650,000 caches marked. Once you've registered for a free account with the site, you can download a Google Earth network link to see all of the different types of caches near a location. If you're lucky, one of your local caches may also contain a 'Travel Bug', which you are encouraged to move physically to a cache in a new location. A unique code that you enter along with the cache's coordinates at the website then allows fellow geocachers to track the bug as it travels around the globe.

NEXT PAGE: Do you own weather forecast and see global warming in action

  1. Get more than just satellite imagery
  2. Follow that plane and take a virtual cruise
  3. Do you own weather forecast and see global warming in action
  4. Your city in 3D

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