Seriously, Google Sky Map made reminded me why, despite ongoing economic, environmental, and political messes worldwide, it's a very cool thing to be living in the 21st century.
Let me take a step back and give you a bit of context. As a kid, I was fascinated by astronomy. For years, I asked for a telescope for Christmas. My father (I mean, uh, Santa Claus), who wanted nothing more than for me to be a doctor, got me a microscope instead. When he (Santa Claus, that is) finally relented and delivered a telescope one early teenage Christmas, I was thrilled, but quickly realized that I lived in Seattle. Viewing opportunities were limited. Microscopes, of course, aren't dependent upon breaks in the rain.
That didn't stop me from trying, as well as reading all of the astronomy books in our school's library, or putting this bumper sticker on my car: That being said, I had a head for the physics behind astronomy, but was pretty dismal at the whole stargazing piece. I could always pick out the easy planets and was happy to tell my kids about the difference between the red and blue giant stars in Orion (my 7-year old at least listened politely), but if you wanted to get much fancier than Cassiopeia, I was in trouble.
So when I stepped outside tonight to enjoy a little post-2-days-of-muggy-crap-hooray-it-rained fresh air, I realized that the beautiful clear sky presented an opportunity to try out my latest App downloaded to my new phone. Using any Android phone's compass, GPS, and clock, Google Sky Map displays an annotated Sky Map of the area the phone is facing. This video demonstrates it nicely, although I have to say that for a geek like me, it's quite a bit cooler in person:
For now, Google Sky Map is only available on Android. You can either scan the QR code here with your Android phone or just search the Apps Marketplace.. Interestingly, the App doesn't use the camera at all, so you can not only view a star chart for the other side of the planet, but you can see what objects are in the sky during the day (or on those cloudy Seattle nights). Happy stargazing!