Google Earth Looks to the Sky

From today’s New York Times:

Google is unveiling within Google Earth today a new service called Sky that will allow users to view the skies as seen from Earth. Like Google Earth, Sky will let users fly around and zoom in, exposing increasingly detailed imagery of some 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies.

“You will be able to browse into the sky like never before,” said Carol Christian, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute, a nonprofit academic consortium that supports the Hubble Space Telescope.

While other programs allow users to explore the skies, they typically combine a mix of representations of stars and galaxies that are overlaid with photographs, Ms. Christian said. “These are really the images of the sky. Everything is real.”

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.

The Sky service features different layers showing the various constellations, a user’s guide to the galaxies, as well as the future position of planets and the moon. There is even a “backyard astronomy” layer which highlights stars, galaxies and nebulae that are visible to the naked eye, with binoculars or with small telescopes.

Here is a video of Sky in action:

(Video length: 1:05)

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  1. The WorldWide Telescope at Ray Fowler .org

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