Way back in January, we guessed that Google's next mapping project might include the universe. We were right: this week Google introduced its latest version of Google Earth. In the new download, users can click a "switch to sky," option. Suddenly, instead of looking down on earth from space, they're be looking up at space via a compilation of more than a million satellite images.
Google maps of space! What's not to like? Headlines this week included "The service is out of this world" (Ireland's Silicon Republic), while a "Earthtimes" called it a "heavenly add on," and newspapers cooed "Google reaches for the stars." Which isn't to say that the service is perfect: Many reporters agreed that Google Sky is going to need some tweaks. More thoughts from around the web after the jump.
"When I heard about the concept of Google Sky, I started to think, 'wouldn't "Google Universe' have been a better name?' …So it was at that point that I decided to see wassup with the domain, googleuniverse.com. Surely, Google had parked it, no? N-o-o-o… if Google really wants to use Google Universe, they'd have to go through some guy in Queensland, Australia." ZDNet,
"'It's a great idea. It's going to be very successful, especially with the general public and schools,' says Francisco Diego, an astronomer at University College London, U.K., who is involved in science outreach. But for astronomers, even of the backyard variety, he notes, it's not the ideal tool. 'Amateur astronomers would be better off with something like Stellarium or Starry Night — you can see the sky above your head at any time, which Google Sky doesn't do,' says Diego." Nature,
"Missing, or perhaps a feature I can't find, is a feature that allows me to punch in the date, time, and my position on Earth that would allow me to see what the night sky would look like from my backyard. Google Sky is off to a good start. My fingers are crossed Google and third parties will add more content to Google Sky." PC World,
"Hopefully Google will partner with other sky-registry organizations, space-science agencies, academic institutions, and observatories to include more information on existing objects in the database and to add more deep-sky imagery for your zooming pleasure." AppScout,
"Google Sky is exciting for many different reasons, even if you're not an astronomy geek. I wonder what big dataset Google will open up to public scrutiny in an easily-accessible form next? Information World Review,
"My first impression is that my beloved Starry Night is in no danger of losing its spot on my Mac dock. Even with the combined forces of the Digital Sky Survey Consortium, Hubble, Palomar, the U.K.'s Astronomy Technology Center, and the Anglo-Australian Observatory on deck. Imaginova's been offering [Starry Night] for years and believe me, they have some user-interface insight that Google can't touch. (And I don't mean anything too arcane, either; I'm talking about basics like horizon line and show/hide for sunlight and such.) That said? I am incredibly pleased with the possibility for incorporating star maps into… oh, everything." , USA Today
"Google's mission is no longer to organize the world's information, but the universe's. Vint Cerf's talk at GeoWeb a few weeks ago now takes on a whole new salience. (He cautioned against developing a too Earth-centric internet.)" Ogle Earth,
"I'll not bore you with tales of wide-eyed amazement. But Google Sky is cool and should be an excellent teaching tool for my kids. They're used to Google… That should thrill investors. If kids grow up on Google, they'll be more likely to stick with the portal in later years." Motley Fool,
"Google Earth already has user-generated layers allowing you to view everything from proposed construction projects to real-time weather to annotated vacation snapshots. I want to see amateur astronomers add their own pix to Google Sky. I want to browse through all the locations where we've found intriguing SETI signals. Or how about a layer showing the home planets of all the aliens on Star Trek?" Forbes.com,
"I don't like it. Well, to be clear, I don't like it yet. I think this version is lacking some basic necessities, but once they (and some tweaks) are added this will be a pretty cool app. For one thing, when I clicked the button to start it, it said it was loading the sky above my current location. However, it doesn't tell me what that current location is. It doesn't tell me what time of day it's using — the sky moves, so time is crucial." Bad Astronomy,