Hidden Feature in Google Earth Sky

Sky Bug in Google EarthYesterday I discovered an interesting “feature” (I would call it a bug, except it is cool) in the new Sky feature of Google Earth 4.2. You can fly yourself outside the “universe” and see how Sky really is just Google Earth turned inside out. When I realized that unfortunately the SpaceNavigator doesn’t work with Sky, I decided to try the seldom-used feature called “G-Force” which lets you navigate in GE by flying (with the mouse or other controllers like a flight simulator yoke). Only, this mode was not intended for use with Sky. It instead transports you outside the “globe” of the sky and shows you the “universe” looking inwards. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Load up GE 4.2 and switch to the “Sky” mode (using the button in the upper center, or the menu “View->Switch to Sky
  2. Hit the “Ctrl” and “G” keys together – this switches you to G-Force mode and you will see your mouse cursor switch to a little airplane
  3. Click once in the sky view and your view will go blank and/or show the globe of the sky
  4. Hit “Ctrl-T” to switch back to normal mode and try moving the sky (zoom in and out to help see it). You should now see the sky as a “globe” as shown in the screenshot above. Things don’t work normally, but its pretty interesting.
  5. To fix things back to normal, you have to switch back to Earth view, or close GE.

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.


  1. is there a dyson sphere mode for google earth or world wind?
    with an inversed curvature of the earths surface or like the sky with earths texture and the viewpoint on the inside.

  2. I’m finding this “sky” feature rather buggy still. I wonder if there’s a way to make the transition between the earth view and the sky a little smoother. For example, if I zoom out far enough, I want the “sky” layers to kick in automatically (retaining the camera position). I don’t like having to switch back and forth using a button. Also, if Google Earth could do that, there’s no reason why it can’t handle “subsurface” data using the same technique. I’m interested in viewing underwater features, bathymetry, underground mines, etc. Maybe, I’m asking too much…

  3. Since Sky is basically connecting to another database entirely, I don’t think we will see a smoother transition in the near-term (without a rewrite of the client). But, J makes an excellent point about bathymetry/underground. Google could do a different model using a similar technique to Sky allowing for sub-surface features. Interesting…

  4. Doug Peltz says:

    I’m wondering why it took Google Earth so long to make a “Sky” feature, and one that’s not even anywhere as good as freeware programs like “Celestia” (which lets you move about in three dimensions and time, and is much more realistic). “Stellarium” is another freeware program that clearly and realistically models the sky as it is seen from any location on Earth. (Stellarium is ideal for someone wishing to learn the night sky and the motions of celestial objects as seen from Earth.) In fact, as far as I can tell, Google Sky does not offer a single feature which supercedes these programs.
    These two programs are wonderfully done, they’re loaded with cool features, they’re free, and have been around for several years now. It pains me somewhat to think that most people’s first and only acquaintance with a celestial visualization program is going to be with Google Sky.
    In my opinion, if Google wished to do a service to astronomy education, it would have much done better to have simply promoted Celestia and Stellarium to its users.

  5. Turn on the “Blue Marble” then you can get fantastic image! 🙂

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