Google’s new solar system maps take you out of this world

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Oct 20, 2017

You’ve probably used Google Maps to preview vacation destinations on this planet, but the newest locales added take you on an out-of-this-world escape.

Maybe you’d rather visit frozen Enceladus than stay at a ski resort. The methane waters beneath Titan’s thick clouds are certainly a change from your typical beach weekend. If you prefer to venture into the eldritch darkness, go on a virtual expedition to Pluto’s Chtulhu region, a shadow land whose icy wastes and menacing craters make it appropriately Lovecraftian.

For those looking for something a little less exotic, there’s always the moon.

These mind-blowing images were transmitted to Earth by the spacecraft Cassini before it plunged to its demise in the atmosphere of Saturn. Astronomical artist Björn Jónsson then brought the planetary maps into being with imagery from the ESA and NASA. There are 12 new locales ranging from Mercury all the way to Pluto. Though the project hasn’t yet evolved into something like Google Earth, which lets you see any location in the world in exact detail (and is admittedly sort of creepy), being able to zoom into places even astronauts probably won’t get to see up close in this lifetime is all sorts of awesome.

You know you want to explore the eldritch dark of Pluto.

You can get a 3D view of any moon or planet by clicking on it and spinning it around to view the side that’s fully illuminated or shrouded in shadows. Zoom in on alien geological features to feel almost as if you’re peering out the window of a spaceship. If you want an experience that’s almost virtual reality, start on Earth and zoom out as fast as you possibly can until you find yourself floating beyond the atmosphere.

While you obsess over how unearthly things like this actually exist, you might also geek out about how many distant moons and planets take their names from mythical entities. Just click on any name to see its origin as you explore space from your laptop. The Rusalka region of Titan is named for the undead water nymphs of Slavic folklore that was have believed to drown people in despair who got too close to a river or lake. Mimas is a crater-covered storybook of names from Arthurian legend, and Europa’s Annwn region is named for the Otherworld in Welsh mythology. No one can guarantee eternal youth if you stare at Annwn long enough, but it definitely is otherworldly.

Try it out right here. Warning: this could be incredibly addictive.