googling the cosmos

Today Google released the latest version of the free Google Earth application, which turns the program into a virtual planetarium. Google Earth 4.2 incorporates an awesome new feature known as “Google Sky,” an astronomical component that mashes up millions of photographs of the universe with information on planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae and other astronomical features, to show the skies as seen from any location on earth (and with the ability to zoom in, as with the Earth portion of the program, for greater detail). I played around with it a bit at lunch today, and found it really cool.

Today’s New York Times also has a brief story.

This version of Google Earth also includes a new terrestrial layer called Gigapxl, which has very high-resolution photos of particular places or buildings, some allowing the user to “fly into” and scroll around panoramas or three-dimensional walk-throughs.