Saturday, September 1, 2007

Google Sky

My discovery of a flight simulator hidden in Google Earth has drawn lots of attention. I'm glad that this hasn't gone by unnoticed since I think it's a great new feature and has plenty potential to become a full-blown flight simulator.

Before revealing the flight simulator, however, I briefly touched on Google Sky. I didn't elaborate much since I thought everyone who would read my blog would either have already come across it or wouldn't be too interested in it. And I don't like the idea of posting about something that's had it's fair share in the news. However, it appears that Google Sky hasn't been covered as much as I'd thought as a number of people said they hadn't heard of it. So, I'll take this opportunity to comment on it.

This video covers how to use Sky much better than I'd be able to cover with screenshots, so I'll let you watch it before reading my comments:

To switch to sky mode, click View -> Switch to Sky. You should be taken to a view that looks like that in the next screenshot. As you can see you have a basic view of the sky above the position you were in when in earth mode, which in my case was my home town of Cape Town. The star signs are filled in and labeled so you're not completely lost. In the shot below we have Pisces and Aquarius.

The first thing I rushed to look for was full views of galaxies. I'm used to searching for everything so I tried searching for "Milky Way", but no results. Not looking good! However, a search for "galaxy" returns several results (although I was hoping for more). Below is a shot of Google Sky's view of the Whirlpool Galaxy. While arguably better images can be found with a simple image search, it's useful having all this information in one tool (combined with other great tools may I add!).

There's nothing specific to Sky in the places menu, which while disappointing, I guess they will get to adding to it at a later stage. As an alternative, their are some interesting layers. While I haven't explored them in much detail I have noticed that they provide quick jumps to some interesting sites. Below is a shot of what they label "Massive Black Hole". This is somewhere I think this could prove useful as I'm not sure the average person has seen such images.

With the fun aspect of Google Earth and what could be considered educational views at a stretch (they include some details of the sites, more of which I'm sure will come with time). You can also view the planets rotation around the sun (video has a short scene).

While not stunned by Google Sky, I do find it a nice addition to Google Earth. I'd like to see it when they allow for exploration of the planets as is now done for Earth. It doesn't have to be detailed imagery. Then imagine if they grouped this together with the flight simulator and allowed for space travel within a shuttle! Wouldn't that be amazing? The other side of course is Google Ocean. It's been said many times before that we put more effort into space exploration than the bottom of the ocean.

There's so much scope for Google Earth when you start thinking about it. It's nice to see that Google haven't stopped adding to it after it became popular. I just hope they don't overwhelm us with advertising when they realise they need to start profiting, although they've become so good at that that I'd doubt they'd make the wrong move.


  1. Agreed with the Celestia comment. Celestia is better for sky objects. And if I'm not mistaked, it also allows one to forward/rewind time to see where objects were/will be in different times.