In Pictures: Most Spectacular Sights in Google Sky

Want to boldly go all over the universe? With views of 100 million stars and 200 million galaxies, Google Sky lets you be a virtual space traveler with just a few clicks of a mouse. Here are some amazing images that are literally out of this world.

The Most Spectacular Sights in Google Sky

Since its introduction two years ago, Google Earth has been a great way to travel around our world and see some of its bizarre sights. Last month the search giant introduced a new Google Earth feature, Google Sky, which lets you travel the far reaches of the universe, often in startling and beautiful clarity. High-resolution images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and the Digital Sky Survey Consortium give you incredible close-ups from deep space. From nebulae and galaxies to stars and comets, we've collected just a few of the breathtaking and spectacular sights in Google Sky. To get started on your own outer-space adventure, download the most recent version of Google Earth software. Launch the application, go to the View menu, and select Switch to Sky. To fly to each of the destinations we spotlight, copy the astrological identifier (we've placed them in parentheses) and paste it into Google Sky's 'Search the Sky' box. We've also created a file of Placemarks that includes all of these sights and more; download it and open it with Google Earth. Ready to blast off? -- Tom Spring

A Pair of Spiral Galaxies

Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, we can see two spiral galaxies pass by each other. According to astronomers these two galaxies are performing a celestial dance of sorts, with gravity hurling stars and gas from each galaxy 100,000 light-years into space. (Search: NGC 2207)

Sombrero Galaxy

No, the Sombrero Galaxy is not located between the Tequila Wormhole and the Acapulco Quasar. Its bright, unusually large nucleus forms the crown of the sombrero, while its rim is a band of dust. (Search: M104)

Step Up to the Bar

This barred galaxy, nearly 70 million light-years away from Earth, is one of the largest ever to be photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope. A barred galaxy's spirals don't twist into the center; rather, they connect to either end of the bar that runs across the middle. That bar, by the way, spans over 150,000 light-years from end to end. (Search: NGC 1300)

A Modern-Art Nebula

This magnificent collection of gas and dust lit by nearby stars is called the Carina Nebula. It's a celestial masterpiece with some of the same abstract swirls, implied motion, and vivid colors that characterize the artwork of Jackson Pollock. (Search: NGC 3372)

Just Another Day in the Universe

Here is a massive comet zipping along toward a spiral galaxy in the Ursa Major constellation. In case there is life in that galaxy, let's hope the comet steers clear. (No Google Sky navigation available.)

Cosmic Debris

This wispy collection of colors, like smoke rising after a fireworks display, is what's left after a stellar explosion in a nearby galaxy (also known as a supernova). (Search: DEM L 190)

Crab Nebula

Nearly 1000 years ago, Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded seeing a bright light in both the day and night skies for nearly two years. Later astronomers would identify it as a nebula (a collection of gas and dust) remaining from a supernova located nearly 6300 light-years from Earth. (Search: NGC 1952)

One Big Universe

Is the universe infinite? No one knows for sure. All we can say is that it extends as far as our best telescopes can see. This image--reportedly the deepest view ever of space--resembles what things might have looked like everywhere during the cosmos's so-called dark ages, before the first stars formed. (Search: HUDF)

Stellar Outburst

And you thought teenagers were the only ones to have dramatic flare-ups. This star had an outburst of astronomical proportions, one that the Hubble Space Telescope captured. If you've loaded our Placemark file, you can view the explosion: Load the star in Google Sky and click on the play button near the timeline at the top of your screen. You'll see a slide show of the stellar explosion and the beautiful flash that illuminated the surrounding dust. (Search: V838 Monocerotis)

Whirlpool Galaxy

This is one of the sharpest images of the aptly named Whirlpool Galaxy. The arms of the galaxy create clusters of new stars as gravity compresses hydrogen gas. (Search: NGC 5194)

The Beehive Cluster

Does this look familiar? Known as the Beehive Cluster, this collection of red giant and white dwarf stars is visible with the naked eye under dark skies, in the constellation Cancer, between February and May. It is thought to be one of the first objects that astronomer Galileo Galilei studied with his telescope in the 1600s. (Search: Praesepe)

Stellar Nursery

This spectacular image of the Eagle Nebula was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. This nebula is also called the Pillars of Creation because many of the dark areas are believed to be protostar breeding grounds. Protostars, which are not quite stars yet, are formed by the contraction of gas. (Search: NGC 6611)

Tie-Dyes in Outer Space?

The Helix Nebula is one of the closest nebulae to Earth, at 650 light-years away. Its claim to fame is not its resemblance to a Deadhead's T-shirt, though: It became a TV star when it was featured in the series Battlestar Galactica. (Search: NGC 7293)

Space Mountain

This towering astrological find is known as the Cone Nebula. It was one of the first images photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope after a major overhaul to the device in 2002 that included the addition of a higher-powered camera. When images of the Cone Nebula first appeared, a number of people gave it the unofficial name Jesus Nebula because they believed they could see Christ's face in its towering walls. (Search: NGC 2264)

Cat's-Eye Nebula

This unusual nebula is 3000 light-years from Earth and nearly half a light-year across. With its knots, jets, and flares of gases and dust, this cosmic eye is considered one of the most complex nebulae known. Astronomers believe that a double-star system may account for its unique inner structure. (Search: NGC 6543)

Constellation Clues

Ever mix up Orion's belt with Leo's tail? Google Sky gives you a guide to the 88 constellations visible from Earth. To find out what constellations are visible in the night sky above you, first use Google Earth to find your house. Zoom in, and then switch to Google Sky. This gives you a rough idea of what your night sky looks like. Unfortunately, Google Sky doesn't factor in the time of year yet.

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