With a new feature called “Sky in Google Earth”, Google is today extending its “Google Earth” product to the heavens—and almost all of the data for the southern sky comes from a telescope in Australia, the UK Schmidt Telescope run by the Anglo-Australian Observatory (AAO).
To access the Sky feature, users must download the newest version of Google Earth.
Sky in Google Earth will let users view 100 million individual stars and 200 million galaxies, and see how planets move across the sky.
Seven layers of information can be called up about celestial bodies and events. These range from Hubble Space Telescope images to a “Users’ guide to galaxies” and information for amateur astronomers.
The southern sky data came from 894 photographic plates taken by the Anglo-Australian Observatory’s 1.2-m UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in northern New South Wales.
“The Schmidt Telescope collects as much information from the sky as a conventional telescope that is much larger, because it can see a bigger piece of sky in a single glance,” says the AAO’s Professor Fred Watson.
“It’s been a tremendous workhorse for astronomy over several decades.”
Other data came from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the Digital Sky Survey Consortium (DSSC), CalTech's Palomar Observatory and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC).
“Sky in Google Earth will be a fantastic resource for just about everybody,” says Watson. “You use it just like Google Earth, and it lets you to view the sky from any place on Earth.”
Even professional astronomers are likely to use Sky in Google Earth.
“It will be a great way to for professionals to share new images and science results with each other and with the public. For instance, we could use it to point out where a new supernova has been seen on the sky, or to share new images,” Watson says.
Professor Fred Watson, Anglo-Australian Observatory (Coonabarabran, NSW)