Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Earth Full of Sky*

A few years ago (2005, I think), I emailed Google about an idea I had about Google Maps. Instead of just mapping Earth, I thought, why not use the many existing maps of the sky, including available NASA images, to create a sort of Google Universe. I thought it would be really handy for stargazers and other amateur astronomers.

Well Google Earth now has a Sky feature which does pretty much what I imagined it to be**. It shows individual stars, as well constellations and galaxies. You can even view the movements of the moon and the planets, and read informative annotations for noteworthy celestial bodies.

Now if only Sky had a simple Google Maps version. Or better yet, if it could be expanded to show what certain parts of the sky looked like during various times in the history of the world. Or even better, predict distant-future stargazing experiences. That'd be way cool. Meanwhile, I'll be waiting for Google's acknowledgment email. (Kidding!) :-P

*Terry Pratchett reference
**Only...the Google engineer's output is a few magnitudes higher on the creativity scale; but hey, back then I was thinking of flat Google Maps, not 3D animated Google Earth!