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While I never got the full-on amateur astronomist bug, as a kid I was always fascinated by the stars, the planets and space in general. And if Google Sky, the new addition to the free Google Earth application, had existed back then, it might have been impossible for my parents to pull me away from it.
Google Sky, which was added to the latest version of Google Earth, which was released this week, does for the universe what Google Earth did for our planet.
After launching Google Earth I could simply hit the new Sky button in the tool bar or choose "Switch to Sky" in the View menu. From there it immediately gave me a view of the stars from my current position on Earth.
Navigation is extremely simple, I could use my mouse or keyboard to move around the sky and zoom toward planets, galaxies and other celestial bodies. I could type a specific destination into the search field (for example "Fly to Andromeda"), and I could bring up the overlayed navigation tools in order to move around the universe.
Clicking on a celestial body brings up a pop-up window that provides some nice detailed information, pulled from a variety of sources such as universities, astronomy centers and NASA.
Another feature of Google Sky is the layers, which makes it possible to quickly see grouped information about different objects in the universe. A cool layer is the Planets one, which makes it possible to view an animated view of the planets as they move over time.
Sure, Google Sky doesn't have much application toward business, but as an educational tool it can be great for teaching young and old about the universe that surrounds us. And it's just plain fun, too.