Stellarium

How far man will go

You must have heard about Google earth, or maybe Google Moon, or Google Mars, eh? All about google, lol. Astromony week! Now, the constellations of Andromeda, Hydra and Vulpecula (who or what are they by the way? Lol, kidding!), are now just a mouse click away for amateur stargazers. Google Earth, a program that allows users to search a 3D rendition of our planet's surface, a great way to search the planet for landmarks, features, and to generally waste time, has a new add-on tool, Google Sky. One click will turn your attention up to the universe. Sky will allow astronomers a chance to glide through images of more than one million stars and 200 million galaxies. Imagery for the system came from six research institutions including the Digital Sky Survey Consortium, the Palomar Observatory in California and the United Kingdom Astronomy Technology Centre. Much of the imagery can be found through searches on the Internet but Google hope the add-on will be simpler and more fun; it is a jolly good thing. The sky you will be seeing will be a completely clear and you will be able to see objects which are very faint indeed - that you can only see with very large telescopes. That is cute, educational and entertaining. Hhmm, I remember my planetarium day. So much grander.

Google Sky is not the only tool that allows astronomers to explore the night sky from their computer. There are already many applications available that allow you to browse the night sky from the comfort of your PC, and many of them have more notes and information. However, some of these apps are commercial and only available for a hefty fee to students or educational institutions. Imaginova's Starry Night offers a range of software packages aimed at beginners to "the serious astronomer". Google Earth, on the other hand, is free. Another is Stellarium, a free open source tool that gives people a chance to access more than 210 million stars, in addition to planets and moons. Oh well, the world is getting smaller, I mean, the universe is. - bbc news excerpts

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