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All right, this is the coolest thing ever. You know Google Earth, that cool software application that lets you explore satellite photography of the whole planet. Well, some clever Google engineers have flipped the software inside out, letting you explore the Universe with a similar interface.
This new addition to Google Earth is called “Sky in Google Earth”. It allows you to zoom around the heavens, with various Hubble Space Telescope images highlighted. You can click on the special objects, like the Orion Nebula, and then see the Hubble photograph of the region.
The images of the entire sky are made up from the Digitized Sky Survey and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The Digitized Sky Survey covers almost the entire sky, contains about a million objects. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey only has about 25% of the sky covered, but in much more detail, comprising hundreds of millions of images.
For all the images captured by Hubble, you can see bigger versions of the images, and then link out to press releases and additional resources on the web.
I’ve got to say, I’m really impressed with the way this project has started out. I can envision a future where more and more sky surveys are put into the program, and maybe even different observatories, so you can see what the sky looks like in X-rays, infrared, etc.
I think this will also help highlight how little of the sky has actually been captured in any detail. Perhaps this will spur on the development of additional robotic sky surveys to continue capturing the Universe in greater and greater detail. Still, it’s an amazing start – nice work Google.
To get a copy of Google Earth, go to http://earth.google.com/. The latest version of the software, 4.2, contains the additional sky watching features.
Original Source: Hubble News Release