Using Google Earth to find a dark sky

The best stargazing occurs when you live in an area with very little artificial light, and the Bortle Dark Sky Scale is a great tool to measure it. Here is an example:

bortle dark sky scale

To get a rough idea of what the light is like in the areas around you, Ethan Siegel at has put together a nice process for adding Bortle data to Google Earth. Once you follow their steps, you can zoom in anywhere in North America (or other areas with other maps) to see Bortle values for that region.

bortle wisconsin

You can also try it in a browser by loading this map from Jonathan Tomshine.

If you can’t find a dark area near you, you can always use Google Earth to do your star gazing for you. The incredible night sky feature will take you to the stars, and the “starry sky” released last year gives you a beautiful view around the planet.

When you have a chance, make sure to read Ethan’s full post at Medium, as it does an excellent job of digging into the Bortle Scale and exactly how to use Google Earth to determine the Bortle value for your area.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Alastair says:

    I want to know why Google sky is censored! And don’t say it isn’t, because it is. I can’t ,zoom as far as I used to. This coincides with the decoding of the Dark Knight Satellite.

Leave a Reply