At Google we are always interested in creating new ways to share ideas and information and applying these techniques to different research fields. Astronomy provides a great opportunity with an abundance of images and information that are accessible to researchers and indeed, anyone with an interest in the stars. With the release of the Google Earth 4.2 client the new Sky feature acts as a virtual telescope that provides a view of some of the most detailed images ever taken of the night sky. By clicking on the Sky button, you can explore the universe, seamlessly zooming from the familiar views of the constellations and stars, to the deepest images ever taken of galaxies and more. From planets moving across the sky to supernovae exploding in distant galaxies, Sky provides a view of a dynamic universe that we hope you will enjoy.

In addition to allowing educators, amateurs or anyone with an interest in space to visually explore the sky, one of the most exciting aspects of Sky is its capability for research and discovery in astronomy. With the latest features in KML you can connect astronomical image and catalog databases directly to the visualization capabilities of Sky ( e.g. searching the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database for the highest redshift quasars or correlating the the infrared and optical sky to detect the presence of dust within our Galaxy). From releasing new data about the latest discovery of planets around nearby stars to identifying the host galaxy of a gamma ray burst the possibilities are endless. Examples of how to build research applications such as a view of the microwave background emission from the remnant of the Big Bang can be found in the Google Earth Gallery.

It has been a lot of fun creating Google's first astronomical observatory. Go check it out; explore the sky from the comfort of your home; If you find something interesting let us know on the Sky section of the Google Earth Community, or author your own KML applications to to share your discoveries and data with everyone else. You can also find more Sky resources on our website.