Because of our lack of geographic experience and the unusual perspectives offered by this atlas, I recommend that users acquire a copy of a detailed state atlas such as those published by Benchmark Maps and DeLorme. These may be purchased from your local bookseller, Amazon.com, or any one of many other dealers. Equipped with such a reference, atlas users will be able to orient themselves better and identify all manner of detail.

One of the unfortunate realities of Web publications is that every user's computer screen will render the panoramas differently. Serious users may need download the images and modify their color balance using their own software. The pictures are best viewed on a large monitor.

The technical details behind the creation of this archive of panoramic maps are fairly simple to understand. First of all, it is important to realize that the panoramas are not photographs. They are photorealistic, mathematical simulations created from satellite data that have been interpreted by computer calculations. The data are derived from United States government resources available on the Web. The principal sources for topographic relief information are digital elevation models created by the United States Geological Survey or by the NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM )
http://srtm.usgs.gov. Individual data quadrilaterals have been merged into larger fields, rather like a chessboard. Over this three dimensional surface is subsequently draped one or more georeferenced satellite images. Although any useful imagery can be used, my favorites are Landsat 7 (http://www.earthsat.com) and MODIS ( Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) http://modis.gsfc.nasa.gov .


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The result is a three dimensional, mathematical model over which a virtual camera may be positioned to create a single panoramic map or a series of images the may be used to create animated "flights."

Many computer applications exist that do this. My favorite is the creation of Mr. Brett Casebolt, whose company Natural Graphics (
http://www.naturalgfx.com/index.htm) produces an outstanding program called Natural Scene Designer Pro. Not only is the program a marvel to use, it is the product of a creative mind that is constantly improving it. This application runs on both Macintosh and Windows computers. I prefer to use a Macintosh G4 and a G5 equipped with dual processors. I also use Adobe Photoshop (http://www.adobe.com/) for graphic editing.

I encourage all who study the earth to investigate this new way of seeing the planet on which we temporarily reside. Like the telescope and the microscope before it, this new "toy" for viewing our world from many new vantage points will reshape the way we see reality.

This atlas was created for the Web using RapidWeaver, a inexpensive and easy to use Macintosh OSX program for creating websites produced by realmac software (
http://www.realmacsoftware.com/).

I am not particularly enchanted in technology for its own sake. Neither is my work supported by government agencies or private benefactors. I am a retired professor, a geographer whose goal is to see and better understand landscapes. The tools I have chosen are exceptionally inexpensive and efficient. I recommend them.