Have you ever wondered how to find your way to the Messier-32 Galaxy but have been unsure where to find directions? Well now you can look it up on Google Sky on-line.
Google Sky has been a service offered on Google Earth since August 2007 and was added to the Google Maps API at the end of last year. Now you can access the same data through the on-line version of Google Sky.
Google Sky is a map of the night sky that includes imagery of millions of celestial objects. It includes a number of 'map types' so that you can view the universe in x-ray or infra-red wavelengths. The transparency of each wavelength can be adjusted via a slider so that you can see how different parts of the universe light up at different wavelengths.
The map also includes a number of 'layers' navigable from the bottom of the screen. These are the same layers that are available in Sky in Google Earth. With these layers it is possible to turn the constellations on or off, view the latest Hubble telescope imagery or even listen to podcasts from Earthsky.org. The 'Our Solar System' layer shows the positions of the planets in real-time, so should prove an invaluable aim for amateur astronomers.
Of course, being Google, the map also comes with a search facility. So if you are unsure how to find the Messier-32 galaxy you can enter M32 in the search box and Google Sky will take you there (you travel south from the Andromeda Galaxy and turn left).
Google Sky is truly universal as it is available in 26 localized language editions. Google have also released this YouTube video introducing their new map.
This post from last week shows some Google Sky maps produced using the Google Maps API.