Google Earth is a brilliant way to travel around the world without leaving your desktop. And Google recently introduced a new feature to Google Earth, Google Sky, which lets you travel the far reaches of the universe, often in startling and beautiful clarity.

From nebulae and galaxies to stars and comets, we've collected just a few of the breathtaking and spectacular sights in Google Sky.

See also: Google Sky review

High-resolution images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and the Digital Sky Survey Consortium give you incredible close-ups from deep space.

To get started on your own outer-space adventure, download the most recent version of Google Earth software. Launch the application, go to the View menu, and select Switch to Sky.

To fly to each of the destinations we spotlight, copy the astrological identifier (we've placed them in parentheses) and paste it into Google Sky's 'Search the Sky' box. Ready to blast off?

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

1. A pair of spiral galaxies

A pair of spiral galaxies

A pair of spiral galaxies

Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, we can see two spiral galaxies pass by each other. According to astronomers these two galaxies are performing a celestial dance of sorts, with gravity hurling stars and gas from each galaxy 100,000 light-years into space. (Search: NGC 2207)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

2. Sombrero galaxy

Sombrero galaxy

Sombrero galaxy

No, the Sombrero Galaxy is not located between the Tequila Wormhole and the Acapulco Quasar. Its bright, unusually large nucleus forms the crown of the sombrero, while its rim is a band of dust. (Search: M104)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

3. Step up to the bar

Step up to the bar

Step up to the bar

This barred galaxy, nearly 70 million light-years away from Earth, is one of the largest ever to be photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope. A barred galaxy's spirals don't twist into the centre; rather, they connect to either end of the bar that runs across the middle. That bar, by the way, spans over 150,000 light-years from end to end. (Search: NGC 1300)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

4. A modern-art nebula

A modern-art nebula

A modern-art nebula

This magnificent collection of gas and dust lit by nearby stars is called the Carina Nebula. It's a celestial masterpiece with some of the same abstract swirls, implied motion, and vivid colours that characterise the artwork of Jackson Pollock. (Search: NGC 3372)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

5. Just another day in the universe

Just another day in the universe

Just another day in the universe

Here is a massive comet zipping along toward a spiral galaxy in the Ursa Major constellation. In case there is life in that galaxy, let's hope the comet steers clear. (No Google Sky navigation available.)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

6. Cosmic debris

Cosmic debris

Cosmic debris

This wispy collection of colours, like smoke rising after a fireworks display, is what's left after a stellar explosion in a nearby galaxy (also known as a supernova). (Search: DEM L 190)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

7. Crab nebula

Crab nebula

Crab nebula

Nearly 1,000 years ago, Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded seeing a bright light in both the day and night skies for nearly two years. Later astronomers would identify it as a nebula (a collection of gas and dust) remaining from a supernova located nearly 6300 light-years from Earth. (Search: NGC 1952)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

8. One big universe

One big universe

One big universe

Is the universe infinite? No one knows for sure. All we can say is that it extends as far as our best telescopes can see. This image - reportedly the deepest view ever of space - resembles what things might have looked like everywhere during the cosmos's so-called dark ages, before the first stars formed. (Search: HUDF)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

9. Stellar outburst

Stellar outburst

Stellar outburst

And you thought teenagers were the only ones to have dramatic flare-ups. This star had an outburst of astronomical proportions, one that the Hubble Space Telescope captured. If you've loaded our Placemark file, you can view the explosion: Load the star in Google Sky and click on the play button near the timeline at the top of your screen. You'll see a slide show of the stellar explosion and the beautiful flash that illuminated the surrounding dust. (Search: V838 Monocerotis)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

10. Whirlpool galaxy

Whirlpool galaxy

Whirlpool galaxy

This is one of the sharpest images of the aptly named Whirlpool Galaxy. The arms of the galaxy create clusters of new stars as gravity compresses hydrogen gas. (Search: NGC 5194)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

11. The beehive cluster

The beehive cluster

The beehive cluster

Does this look familiar? Known as the Beehive Cluster, this collection of red giant and white dwarf stars is visible with the naked eye under dark skies, in the constellation Cancer, between February and May. It is thought to be one of the first objects that astronomer Galileo Galilei studied with his telescope in the 1600s. (Search: Praesepe)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

12. Stellar nursery

Stellar nursery

Stellar nursery

This spectacular image of the Eagle Nebula was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. This nebula is also called the Pillars of Creation because many of the dark areas are believed to be protostar breeding grounds. Protostars, which are not quite stars yet, are formed by the contraction of gas. (Search: NGC 6611)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

13. Tie-dyes in outer space?

Tie-dyes in outer space?

Tie-dyes in outer space?

The Helix Nebula is one of the closest nebulae to Earth, at 650 light-years away. Its claim to fame is not its resemblance to a Deadhead's T-shirt, though: It became a TV star when it was featured in the series Battlestar Galactica. (Search: NGC 7293)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

14. Space mountain

Space mountain

Space mountain

This towering astrological find is known as the Cone Nebula. It was one of the first images photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope after a major overhaul to the device in 2002 that included the addition of a higher-powered camera. When images of the Cone Nebula first appeared, a number of people gave it the unofficial name Jesus Nebula because they believed they could see Christ's face in its towering walls. (Search: NGC 2264)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

15. Cat's-eye nebula

Cats eye nebula

Cats eye nebula

This unusual nebula is 3,000 light-years from Earth and nearly half a light-year across. With its knots, jets, and flares of gases and dust, this cosmic eye is considered one of the most complex nebulae known. Astronomers believe that a double-star system may account for its unique inner structure. (Search: NGC 6543)

Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world. With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveller with just a few clicks of a mouse.

16. Constellation clues

Constellation clues

Constellation clues

Ever mix up Orion's belt with Leo's tail? Google Sky gives you a guide to the 88 constellations visible from Earth. To find out what constellations are visible in the night sky above you, first use Google Earth to find your house. Zoom in, and then switch to Google Sky. This gives you a rough idea of what your night sky looks like. Unfortunately, Google Sky doesn't factor in the time of year yet.