Google Sky Gives a Close-Up View of the Universe

Armchair explorers will now have the entire universe at their fingertips, thanks to Google's latest venture, Google Sky, a new free feature that's an application in the popular Google Earth program.

Starting today, anyone with a computer can view a close-up of about 100 million galaxies and 200 million stars.

To access Google Sky, available today, download the new Google Earth at http://earth.google.com.

"This is an application that allows you to see the sky at very, very high resolution, as if you were just flying through the universe and seeing and visiting galaxies," said Chikai Ohazama, a Google product manager who has worked to gather data from astronomical organizations around the world.

Google has stitched together real photographs of the universe into one giant database.

"Basically you're seeing imagery that you have to have a very, very high-powered telescope to look at and we're placing that in the database," Ohazama said. "You can zoom in very, very close and see the actual spiral, a galaxy and the clusters around it."

Google already allows users to see Earth at a level of detail many spy agencies would envy. The program's satellite and street-level imagery is so advanced it has generated alarm from privacy advocates.

One of the unique features of Google Sky is that you can plug in your address and the program shows you what the sky above your home looks like.

Google Sky allows users to bookmark constellations, rotate the whole sky and zoom in to see details of black holes and stars.

It is an awe-inspiring look at the universe, not to mention a whole new way to waste time at work.

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