Google Earth Takes on the Universe

Submitted 10 years ago
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My Take

Google Sky is the space version of Google’s Earth application. Simply put, it allows users to view a set of images from space. Rather than browsing across town in Google Earth, students can peruse the “street-view” of the universe, visiting planets and space objects far off in the galaxy. The images displayed are a compilation of pictures from NASA satellites, the Hubble Telescope, and a few other sources. The value of the Google Sky application (available both as a standalone application as a part of the free Google Earth download or as a web-based version at is that all of this information is compiled into one easy-to-use tool. Moving from one galaxy to the next is as easy as dragging your mouse and clicking. Google recently added access to the Slooh Space Camera where students can view live space footage through a telescope via the application. Google Sky would fit within any classroom where students are learning astronomy or studying the Ancient constellations. Integrated into the application are links to other web-based astronomy resources from photos to podcasts. Google Sky is a one-stop shop for all of your astronomical investigations.

How I Use It

Any classroom studying astronomy should use the Google Sky application in their learning. The ease-of-use and wealth of available resources is outstanding.

As an introduction to the Solar System, students could start with a zoomed in view of the Moon and slowly zoom out. The current location of and relative distance between the planets becomes visible. Students studying individual planets can learn about the location of the planet in relation to the Earth. A quick click on Neptune, for example, shows that the sunlight reflected on the surface of Neptune takes approximately 4.3 hours to reach the Earth. One of the most compelling elements of Google Sky is how other organizations have embedded their content within the application. For example, Hubblecast provides a series of video podcasts that showcases news and images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In the Hubblecast 01 podcast, students can see a “comet galaxy” being ripped apart, and in the Hubblecast 02 podcast, students can learn about black holes. It is this embedded content that makes the use of Google Sky in the classroom so powerful for students to learn about the mysteries and complexities of space.

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