Just when you thought Google had cataloged everything on earth...they're taking to the sky. The latest version of Google Earth, the zoomable, customizable, digital globe, also features images of the night sky. The all-sky shots come from the Digitized Sky Survey, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and others; the Hubble Space Telescopes provides a selection of close-ups.
According to New Scientist, users can plug in their coordinates on Earth to see their personalized night sky, search a catalog of celestial objects, and pull up detailed information on planets, stars, etc.
The press suggests that this free software could replace programs like Redshift in the amateur astronomers' arsenal, but I suspect serious observers will still seek out specialized software for sky mapping--and for simulating the sky as it was in the distant past, or as it will be in the future.
The Sky program also lets users upload and pin their own images on Google's celestial sphere, which could be a big hit with amateur astronomers looking to share their CCD images.