Google Earth Sky – Part II

[NOTE 22-August: this article is NOT about the new Google Earth 4.2 “Sky” feature which shows the view of the stars and galaxies of space. It is about a feature someone created for making clouds in the sky of Earth. Read this story about the new night sky feature of GE 4.2.]
Skydome clouds over Grand Canyon in Google Earth Yesterday we explored the nifty simple 3D model James published at his Barnabu blog for adding a sky with clouds over any spot in Google Earth to enhance realism. James had published a 3D model, which he calls a “skydome”, for use with the free Google SketchUp, which I then output to Google Earth. Now James has taken this to the next step, and made the skydome even more useful. He created a simple network link which will capture your current view and allow you to place the skydome model at that location. He also increased the scale so the dome is 50 miles in diameter so you can move around in the area and still have the sky around you. The screenshot shown here is of the Grand Canyon with clouds. (The new high-resolution terrain for the Grand Canyon is awesome).
Here are some tips on how to use the skydome network link:

  1. Go to a place you want the sky. It’s best if you are looking straight down. Then download the skydome network link (230 Kbytes)
  2. If you tilt your view, you should now see the sky with clouds. If you don’t have a SpaceNavigator, you can use the built-in Google Earth G-Force mode (Ctrl-G) to allow you to look up in Google Earth (read this article for some tips on G-Force mode – this is not an easy mode if you’re not used to flight simulators). Note: to get back to normal viewing mode hit “Ctrl-T“.
  3. Go to another location in Google Earth – again, make sure you are looking down.
  4. Select the Skydome network link with the right mouse button and choose “Refresh“. This refreshes the network link which grabs your current coordinates and moves the dome model over the new location.
  5. You can move (or cut and paste) your skydome network link to your “My Places” folder to keep this handy for future use. Just turn it off when you’re not using it.

I’ve already suggested to James the next logical extension for the skydome – a night sky. The trick will be to make the ground also look like night – possibly a dark transparent image overlay. And then you’d have to do custom 3D buildings with night colors as well. But, it should give James something else to innovate for Google Earth. Nice job on the skydome James!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. I think this skydome network is neat, but I was wondering if anyone has considered using Google Earth to look past the sky and into the stars as planetarium.

  2. Timothy says:

    The next step is to incorporate a virtual sun and attach it to the time control so that you can see the position the sun would be in at a given time of day on a certain date. It could be useful if you are planning a trip.

  3. yes, I do… not into the stars, but on the clouds giving a more authentic view of a scene. I’d like the skydome larger (not to break the wall like the ending scene of Trueman Show) and feeded with real-time data.
    The Global Cloud Layer gives me a bit of 3d behaviour with adjustable height of the clouds. Often I activate the realtime lightning layer to get closer to the reality…
    I agree about the night view of the skydome but I see it in a more global context of Google Earth. Simulating day and night is not only a thing of clouds and/or 3d buildings, its more a global switch within GE. Feeded from the realtime day/night layer, perhaps added the (more deatiled) layer of lights at night.
    I am very excited to see GE getting more and more realistic. Thanks to Barnabu and all others who keep working giving GE the fascination of our world. (Did you see the 3d buildings in Berlin, Germany? Amazing…)

  4. Duncan Brinsmead says:

    Something one could try would be to create a sky using a seamlessly repeating sky texture and then mapping this (with repeats and perhaps alpha opacity) to a sphere(around the earth) or as an elevated overlay( although I don’t know if overlays can repeat ). The mapping of real cloud data is nice, but is too low resolution and lacks the shading in real cloud photos. Using a repeating texture would get around these problems. The alpha mapping would help keep the sky color different at the horizon than the zenith( by relying on the GE sky).

  5. What’s new? 3D artists have been using sky domes for ages. What I’m waiting for is a new layer showing actual clouds, real time, from cloud radar. That would allow to see if you should take your umbrella on a day trip.

  6. As I am Very new to Google earth, I have found that Its really amazing and good, thanks to all who has contributed to put this together.

  7. It’s like a flying in the sky. It’s awesome techinque. Great!

  8. Amazing how things have changed in 3 years since this article was written. Now google has street views of houses etc worldwide. Techinolgy has evolved rapidly.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.