Google has announced the launch of "Sky", a new feature that lets Google Earth users to view the sky as seen from planet Earth.
This easy-to-use tool enables all Earth users to view and navigate through 100 million individual stars and 200 million galaxies.
High resolution imagery and informative overlays promise to create a unique playground for visualising and learning about space.
The interface and navigation are similar to that of standard Google Earth steering, including dragging, zooming, search, "My Places" and layer selection.
As part of the new feature, Google is introducing seven informative layers that illustrate various celestial bodies and events:
Constellations - From Cassiopeia to Andromeda, the Constellations layer connects the points of constellations through space, labeling each with its given name. Users can learn about the stars that make up their favorite constellations.
Backyard Astronomy - The Backyard Astronomy layer lets users click through a variety of placemarks and information on stars, galaxies, and nebulae visible to the eye, binoculars and small telescopes. This layer is useful for the amateur astronomer who may benefit from a comprehensive, organised way to reference fragments of the night sky.
Hubble Space Telescope Imagery - The HST layer provides users with over 120 high-resolution images provided by the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA/ESA's renowned orbiting telescope.
Moon - The Moon layer displays animations of two months of both lunar positions and moon phases.
Planets - The Planets layer illustrates the seven official planets and their positions in the sky two months into the future.
Users Guide to Galaxies - The Users Guide to Galaxies layer enables users to go on virtual tours through different types of galaxies, from Ursa Minor Dwarf to the Milky Way.
Life of a Star - The Life of a Star layer takes the user on a tour through the different stages of a star's life cycle.
Once users have downloaded the new version of Google Earth, available now, to access Sky, users need only click "Switch to Sky" from the "view" drop-down menu in Google Earth, or click the Sky button on the Google Earth toolbar.