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About Google Sky

Google Sky

About Google Sky

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Traveling to the stars has never been easier

To help you explore the far reaches of our universe, we have teamed up with astronomers at some of the largest observatories in the world to bring you a new view of the sky. Using Google Maps this tool provides an exciting way to browse and explore the universe. You can find the positions of the planets and constellations on the sky and even watching the birth of distant galaxies as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

We are particularly excited about the ability to view the universe at different wavelengths, to see how it would look if our eyes worked in the x-rays or infrared. As you explore these new layers, play with the transparency to blend between the different wavelengths and see how different parts of the universe light up at different wavelengths

If you are interested in what's happening on the sky tonight or over the next few months then check out the podcasts from Earth and Sky or search for the position of your favorite planet.



Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What am I looking at?
  2. Is the imagery different from Sky in Google Earth?
  3. Where did all this data come from?
  4. Can I find where the planets are on the sky tonight?
  5. How do I find my favorite place on the sky?
  6. Can I use the add-ons found in the Google Earth Gallery?
  7. Can I create my own view of the sky?
  8. How do I find out more about this data, or about astronomy in general?

The Cigar Galaxy (Messier 82), observed
in the x-ray, optical and near-infrared
using NASA's space-based telescopes

1. What am I looking at?

Google Sky includes a number of different ways to explore the universe. The initial view shows the visible universe and is a mosaic of images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Digitized Sky Survey and the Hubble Space Telescope. Select the thumbnail images at the bottom of the display to bring up the planets, the constellations, highlights from the Hubble Space Telescope, famous stars, galaxies and nebulae, views of the universe in the x-ray, ultraviolet and infrared and podcasts about upcoming astronomical events from Earth and Sky Podcasts. Other items available through Google Sky:

  • Infrared - An infrared view of the sky from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). Change the transparency of this layer by moving the slide bar to blend the optical and infrared.
  • Microwave - 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.
  • Historical - The sky as drawn by Giovanni Maria Cassini (printed in 1792) showing the constellations in their classical form from the collections of David Rumsey

2. Is the imagery different from Sky in Google Earth?

The images seen in Google Sky are identical to those found in Sky in Google Earth. We have changed the projection to display these images within Google Maps (the Mercator projection). As with Google Maps this means that we cannot view the northern and southern celestial poles.

3. Where did all these data come from?

The imagery for Google Sky comes from some of the largest ground- and space-based astronomical surveys.

The visible data comes from a combination of surveys: the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Digital Sky Survey Consortium which you can find more about at: http://www.stsci.edu, http://www.caltech.edu, http://www.roe.ac.uk, and http://www.aao.gov.au; NASA and ESA's Hubble Space Telescope about which you can find more at the Space Telescope Science Institute and the ESA Hubble Space Telescope home page. More details about these observatories can be found on our partners page.

Additional layers for Sky came from a number of space orbiting observatories: the x-ray data from NASA's Chandra satellite, the ultraviolet images from NASA's GALEX satellite, the infrared images from the joint NASA, Netherlands and UK Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the microwave sky from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite.

The historical constellations layer are created from the historical maps available at the David Rumsey Historical Maps Collection.

The layers were created in collaboration with the University of Washington sky team .

4. Can I find where the planets are on the sky tonight?

Absolutely, type the name of the planet in the search box and Google Sky takes you to where it can be found on the sky. Alternatively, if you click on the "Our Solar System" icon on the initial view, thumbnails of prominent solar system objects appear. Clicking one of these thumbnails will take you to the current location of that planet on the sky.

5. How do I find my favorite place on the sky?

If you know the name of the star or galaxy that you are looking for, simply enter it in the search box (e.g. Pleiades or Messier 85). Don't worry about misspellings Google Sky will spell check it for you. If you want to find a particular position on the sky you can also enter the coordinates (Right Ascension and declination) in the search box.

6. Can I use the add-ons for Sky found in the Google Earth Gallery?

Some KML and KMZ files will work in Google Sky (including those found in the gallery). To load a KML file, simply enter its URL in the search box and click search. Gooogle Maps supports KML features such as placemarks, polygons and image overlays. Time-based KML and regionated images are not currently supported. More details on what features are supported can be found here .

7. Can I create my own view of the sky?

Yes! The imagery for Google Sky is available in the same way as Google Maps. You can embed your own view of the sky on any webpage and customize the view to show your favorite aspect of astronomy. To find out more check out this maps api blog post.

8. How do I find out more about these data, or about astronomy in general?

There are many places on the web to find out more about astronomy and the images we use in Google Sky. Good places to start are the homepages of our partners listed above or at the astronomy page on Wikipedia . There's also a pretty good search engine that could aid you in your quest.