Google Earth now includes Google Sky - a feature that allows you to get up-close and personal with over 100 million galaxies and 200 million stars.

So we've booted up our computer, loaded Google Sky and are ready to trek across the galaxy.

As Google did with Google Earth, Google Sky is made up of stitched photographs of the heavens pieced together to make a one giant navigate-able database of the universe.

To get started you have to download the most recent version of Google Earth software. Once you've done that launch the application and go to the View drop down menu and select the "Switch to Sky" item. Now you're ready to blast off.

Instead of navigating a sphere from the top down, you are the centre of the universe and navigating a spherical universe from the position of the earth. In this sense you can't navigate freely in space - like a spaceship might. Instead it more closely resembles a planetarium on your PC that allows you to zoom in and out from inside an inverted sphere.

You start out seeing the constellations Pegasus, Libra, Virgo, and much more. From here you can zoom in to see points of interest the same way you do in Google Earth.

If you see something of interest simply click on it and Google Sky offers pop-up information and photographs on everything from black holes, galaxies, planets, and stars. Pop-up content comes from third parties. For example pictures featured in Hubble Showcases come directly from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Other high-resolution imagery comes from the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Digital Sky Survey Consortium, and others.

If you know where you're going Google Sky search allows you to type in galactic destinations such as the Ursa Major, Sagittarius or the black hole NGC 5128. Otherwise you can wander aimlessly - it's quite fun.

However, to really get the most out of Google Sky you will want to use the Google Sky Layers feature. These layers are content that has been created for Google Sky.

Google Sky Layers such as Backyard Astronomy feature some of the most interesting, well-known objects that you can observe with the naked eye, a pair of binoculars or a modest telescope. Other layers include The Planets, The Moon, and Constellations. By activating these layers all you have to do is click on an heavenly body of interest and you'll receive background information on the object.

Missing, or perhaps a feature we can't find, is a feature that allows us to punch in the date, time, and our position on Earth that would allow us to see what the night sky would look like from my back yard.

You can use Google Maps to scour Mars - but not Google Earth. It would be great to view the Red Planet's surface and those of other planets through Google Earth Sky.

Google Sky: Specs

  • Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS X 10.3.9
  • Pentium 3, 500Mhz, G3 500Mhz
  • 128MB RAM
  • 400MB free space
  • 128 Kbps connection
  • 3D-capable graphics card with 16MB of VRAM
  • 1024x768 screen with 16-bit High Colour screen
  • Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS X 10.3.9
  • Pentium 3, 500Mhz, G3 500Mhz
  • 128MB RAM
  • 400MB free space
  • 128 Kbps connection
  • 3D-capable graphics card with 16MB of VRAM
  • 1024x768 screen with 16-bit High Colour screen

OUR VERDICT

Google Sky is off to a good start. Our fingers are crossed that Google and third parties will add more content to Google Sky.

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