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Raleigh Company Helps Online Visitors View the World

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RALEIGH — Imagine being able look at your neighborhood from space! You can if you're on the Internet.Microsoft, with help from a Raleigh company and others, has put the world's largest database online -- pictures of earth from space.

Satellite photos come from theU.S. Geological Surveyand Raleigh'sAerial Images, with lots of help from the Russian Space Agency. It all comes together on what Microsoft calls theTerraServer.

The technology behind TerraServer is impressive. It already stores more data than all the HTML pages on the Internet. A stack of 2,000, 550-page digital atlases. But the pictures, many of which go online, are the draw.

Microsoft Scientist Jim Grey says the U.S. Geological Survey is contributing imagery of about 30% the U.S. Aerial Images is contributing two million square kilometers of coverage of the world.

Aerial Images processed photographs and digital pictures at its headquarters in Raleigh. President John Hoffman says images shot by a satellite launched by rocket would have been highly classified just a few years ago."We have been able to work with our government and the Russian government to reach an agreement to allow the information to be declassified."Hoffman says some pictures are free. Others cost a few dollars."One of the unique features of the system is the ability for a consumer to come into the site and with no more than four or five clicks of a mouse, go from a world map right to their neighborhood."TerraServer is actually an experiment showing just how much information can be stored and easily accessed by lots of people. An experiment, but a valuable one.

Digital information from TerraServer will be used by urban planners to guide growth. Environmental groups will use it for monitoring. Students can see the world as it really is and farmers can get an astronaut's view of their land.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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