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WorldWide Telescope – Online Applications Enhance Staycations.

When the mortgage payments are piling up and the kids need braces, it's the best time for a vacation. Or it would be, if you had the money. Unfortunately, with the economy tanking, a lot of us are stuck taking holidays at home instead - but they don't need to be traveling's sad sister.

Revel in your area's surroundings, hitting up the attractions and museums you've been saving for "later." Or even splurge on gas and drive to nearby cities for daytrips - at least you're saving on the hotel bill. Travelling is all about your frame of mind, and you can explore the world without going too far.

Travel the WorldTravel the World But when the rainy day strikes and you're at home with nothing to do, there are online applications that let you peek past the sky - giving you the benefits of the planetarium without an admission tag. The WorldWide Telescope is a free (hallelujah!) internet-based application that lets you look at an "X-ray view of the sky," using information from Hubble, the Spitzer telescope, and other Nasa technologies. If your kids are ready to learn that Martians only exist in movies, you can blast off to Google Mars, with the world's most accurate photos of the red planet.

If your dreams are a little more land based, you can spend just as long playing on Google Earth, which uses satellite imagery to recreate almost everything on earth, or Street View which lets you peek into people's lives with its ground level snapshots of select cities.

Still not loving that you're stuck with a staycation? Look at it this way...you're saving up for next year's massive vacation.

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