Sky in the classroom

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 6:09 PM



Google products can be useful in many classes, but today I want to point out how they can be useful in my favorite high school class: astronomy!

When I studied astronomy, the teachers used to bring a gigantic star map to class, point at the stars, and tell us all those great stories about them. I always wanted to see deeper into the sky and know more about it, but I had to wait for the annual trip to the observatory to actually do that, unfortunately. With Sky in Google Earth you can do all of that and much more now without even leaving the classroom. Just open Google Earth, click on the new "Sky" button, and you'll see the very sky above your location. Here are some tips on how to get an astronomical education:

- To see a particular object, just search for it in the search box (for example, try searching "Betelgeuse"). If you want to know more about a particular star, just select the "backyard astronomy" layer from the layer panel and click on a star to get more details.

- To see a giant cosmic explosion in space, search for "crab nebula" and fly 6,300 light years in a second. Click on the icon to learn more. And you can explore other Hubble pictures using the layers panel.

- To explore the planets as they move across the sky, double-click the "planets" layer on the left panel and then press play on the time slider on the top-right corner. If you want to explore, say, the moon or Mars, just click on either one of them to land in a map. It's almost like being there ...

- Go to HeyWhat'sThat to access a night sky overlay in Google Earth and see what your sky will look like tonight.

- With planets and asteroids moving through our own solar system, and with exploding stars and mysterious flashes of gamma ray radiation, there are always new things to see in the night sky. At voeventnet.org you can use Sky to find out whats new in the sky tonight and go and see for yourself.

- We also have special tours you can use: just click on the "User's guide to galaxies" or the "Life of a Star" tour on the layers panel, and then click on the star or galaxy icon to learn more. You can also create your own tour of Sky to share with friends or students, using the same tools in Google Earth. Here's a good tutorial.

Additionally, you can learn more about the planets through a new layer created by exoplanets.org, which will show you all of the stars with planetary systems that we currently know about. Download it from the Google Earth gallery.

It's our hope that Sky will help educate kids around the world on the wonders of space. We encourage you to share your feedback with us in the Sky forum.