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OK, I think I have my feet back on the ground now. But I may have gotten lost in the Small Magellanic Cloud’s Open Star Cluster. I’ve just been playing around with Google Sky, and have traveled around the universe, seeing dramatic astronomical images as never before. Anyone interested in astronomy, or those of you who just like awe-inspiring images will enjoy Google Sky. Just like Google Earth, Google Sky allows you to search for specific locations, zoom in and out of images, and pan around areas to look at nearby features. But Google Sky teams up with some of the largest ground- and space-based astronomical surveys to allow you to explore the far reaches of the universe.
You can select from the thumbnail images at the bottom of the display to bring up planets, constellations, highlights from the Hubble Space Telescope, famous stars, galaxies and nebulae, and views of the universe in the x-ray, ultraviolet and infrared. There’s also podcasts about upcoming astronomical events, and plenty of information about the images, including direct links to the Hubble’s comprehensive website about the specific image you are viewing.
What I found most interesting is the infrared images, particularly the ones from Spitzer. Initially, you see them in the visible spectrum, but then it quickly changes to infrared. Being able to compare the two spectrums is one of my favorite aspects of Google Sky. And other features allow you to play with the transparency to blend between all the different wavelengths and see how different parts of the universe light up at different wavelengths.
There’s also a view of the microwave sky from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which shows the universe as it was 380,000 years after the big bang.
Also very interesting is the “Historical” feature, seeing the sky as drawn by Giovanni Maria Cassini (printed in 1792) showing the constellations in their classical form.
You can also use Google Sky to observe your own view of the sky, and zoom in for a closer look.
Start gallivanting around the universe with Google Sky here.