Google Earth 4.2 reaches for the sky

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Mountain View (CA) – Google today released a major update for its Earth application, introducing a spectacular view on the sky, allowing users to zoom into distant galaxies and stars – and learn about phenomenons such as red giants, supernovae and how stars are born.

 


In Pictures: Google Sky ...

 

Google Earth is one of those applications we would not want to miss anymore. From exploring your own or possibly future neighborhoods from the view of a satellite to preview the location of your next vacation and teaching your kids about foreign countries Earth has become in many households a key application on the family computer. Now Google goes one step further, providing a deep view into the sky, which is not just interesting for hobby astronomers, but especially people who always wanted to learn about astronomy, but never did.

The Sky view in Earth 4.2 is activated by a new button "Switch to sky" in the main menu bar. The interface resembles what many star maps look like, but allows users to zoom, pan, tilt and spin like they would in the regular Earth application. According to the company, Sky has 100 million of stars and 200 million galaxies, some of which are "hundreds of millions of light years away."

To help users that are new to astronomy, Google provides the regular search functionality, which enables users to navigate to destination via a simple search term. There are also several KML showcases available, one of the directly built in: Former astronaut Sally Ride has compiled a list of places where, for example, a supernova is explained. A video shows some of the truly spectacular views of galaxies, nebulae, and stars.

Among the advanced features are the discovery of asteroids and planets in motion. Users can set timelines and see how the location of planets will change over time – in certain timeframes.

What we found missing during our first tour through sky was a detailed view of the nine planets in our system. Compared to the resolution that is available for some distant galaxies, the imagery of planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Mars or Venus is very low.

Google Sky is provided free of charge with Earth 4.2.