Googling the Universe

Without a doubt, Google Earth has put the functional utility of satellite imaging at the fingertips of millions, rekindling for many the shear wonder of what satellites can do to improve our lives.

Now Google’s virtual "satellites" (which aren’t really satellites, of course, but rather "the superimposition of images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D") are doing what no single satellite has yet been designed to do: they’re turning their gaze from the Earth to the Heavens with today’s release of Google Sky:


With Sky, users can now float through the skies via Google Earth. This easy-to-use tool enables all Earth users to view and navigate through 100 million individual stars and 200 million galaxies. High resolution imagery and informative overlays create a unique playground for visualizing and learning about space.

To access Sky, users need only click "Switch to Sky" from the "view" drop-down menu in Google Earth, or click the Sky button on the Google Earth toolbar. The interface and navigation are similar to that of standard Google Earth steering, including dragging, zooming, search, "My Places," and layer selection….

"Never before has a roadmap of the entire sky been made so readily available. Anyone interested in exploring the wonders of our universe can quickly see where the stunning objects photographed by Hubble actually dwell in the heavens. Sky in Google Earth will foster and initiate new understanding of the universe by bringing it to everyone’s home computer," said Dr. Carol Christian of STScI, who co-led the organization’s Sky team with Dr. Alberto Conti.

Google Sky features seven layers, including Hubble Space Telescope Imagery, Constellations, the Moon and Planets, a "Users Guide to Galaxies" and a "Life of a Star" layer, as well "The Backyard Astronomer," which "is useful for the amateur astronomer who may benefit from a comprehensive, organized way to reference fragments of the night sky."

"The Sky imagery was stitched together from more than one million photographs from scientific and academic sources, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Palomar Observatory at the California Institute of Technology and the NASA-financed Hubble," according to the New York Times.

The BBC also has some good video of the new release. 

To get Google Sky, simply download the latest version of Google Earth.