The latest version of Google Earth now has a projection of the sky built into called, fittingly, Google Sky. It’s a natural extension. We’ve got lots of pictures of the starry sky, so why not stick them all together using the Google Earth glue that already exists. But when I tried it for the first time, I was underwhelmed. If you want to learn your way around the stars, the freeware package Stellarium does a much better job. But I soon realized that’s not exactly the point. Google Sky can act as a focal point for aggregating shared data about the heavens just as its Earthbound sibling does for terrestrial data like storm tracks and botanical surveys. See for example this Popular Science note: Google Sky a Hit With Astronomers. Incidentally, there’s a similar professional sky-watching tool called WikiSky, but it doesn’t have a lot of the slickness of Google Sky.
Anyway, I figured that somebody would have entered special data about where to find Comet Holmes in Google Sky. They had. I was able to follow a link that placed this little indicator of the comet’s location on my screen. I really liked the fact that the interface has this holdover from the Earth-facing side: directions to and from the comet. I’d like to see those directions.
Take exit 9 to merge onto I-84 W toward US-20/Sturbridge/Hartford (41.7 mi). Take exit 57 on the left to merge onto CT-15 S toward I-91 S/NY City (2.6 mi). Turn straight up and head directly toward Mirfak/Alpha Persei (25.43 million mi). Turn right onto Holmes St (1.3 mi).
[originally spotted on O’Reilly Radar]