Google Sky – The Next Generation (Updated)

Google has made a substantial update to the layers for Google Earth’s Sky mode. Start up Google Earth 4.2, and select the “View->Switch to Sky” menu (or click on the button in the top middle to “Switch between Earth and Sky”).
The new layer choices look like this:

The new layers include a new “Welcome to Sky” layer which provides a series of placemarks to tour the different features of Sky. Double-click on the Welcome to Sky layer and look for the “Saturn” placemark icon. Open it up to see links to a couple of tutorials on using Sky.
There are some new layer folders like:

  • Current Sky Events – This layer folder includes some astronomy podcasts called “Earth and Sky” which have apparently been around for some time. Each podcast is placemarked to a location described in the story. The layer also includes “VOEventNet” placemarks which provides rapid-response information on night sky events.
  • Featured Observatories – This new layer contains content from several layers including: Hubble (which was available previously), Spitzer Infared Showcase, GALEX Ultraviolet Showcase, Chandra X-Ray Showcase, WMAP Microwave Sky, and IRIS Infrared Sky. Some of these do complete image overlays of sky to show alternate imagery (in other frequencies) for our night sky. Recommendation: try them out one at a time.
  • Historical Sky Maps – this new layer folder contains sky maps from David Rumsey’s historical map archives. One does a full-sky overlay showing a historical map of the sky from the inside of the celestial sphere. It looks a little weird with the writing backwards since you’re on the inside. It also appears to be in Italian. Also available are “Hevelius Constellations” which have the beautiful constellation illustration overlays (the same I mentioned were converted for Sky back in early October).
  • Sky Community – this layer shares placemarks posted by people at the Google Earth Community forum for Sky.

There’s a ton of new information in the new release. So, get out there and explore the Sky!
By the way, at the end of the “Welcome” tour of placemarks you get a placemark which links to James Stafford’s “Real-sized Planets” add-on. You also get a link to the fun “Han Solo Escapes” 3D animation Joey Wade and I did last fall.
NOTE: While I was writing this, Google released their announcement about the update to Sky. I’ve made slight modifications to reflect the new information.

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. Janice Sprinkles says:

    What has happened to the layer “Hubble Showcase”? I am no longer able to zoom in on any nebula or other stars and get the beautiful pictures that I used to.

  2. google sky image still says 2007 when will next google sky imagery be updated?

  3. need to upgrade google sky imagery, which still says 2007

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