Innovation

Google Earth aims for the skies

Google Earth, the immensely popular 3D-Earth tool, has received a 'stellar' upgrade. Now users can select a 'Sky' view that immediately moves focus to the sky from their present position on 3D-Earth. See the image gallery: Google Earth beams you into space.

As quoted in the New Scientist, the tool leverages astronomical data, including images of more than 100 million individual stars and 200 million galaxies from a number of scientific organizations, such as the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, CalTech Palomar Observatory, the United Kingdom Astronomy Technology Centre, and the Anglo-Australian Observatory.

Google Earth is not the first tool to launch into the starry night. There are a number of tools, including Starry Night, Red Shift (PC Pro), and Stellarium (ZDNet) that provide many features. However, the immense appeal of Google Earth (it's touted to have been downloaded 250 million times!) will have an even greater impact. Also, Google is sure to introduce more features. Professor Francisco Diego from the astronomy department of University College London comments that the 'Sky' view could be a potential 'Astrological YouTube' for amateur astronomers.

What really interests me is to see how the various Google competitors will try to one-up Google on this feature. And, by the way, when was the last time we saw competitors of Google come out with compelling new features that are pinnacles of innovation?

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