BY DAN NEPHIN
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The heavens are only a few mouse clicks away with Google Inc.'s latest free tool.
A new feature in Google Earth, the company's satellite imagery-based mapping software, allows users to view the sky from their computers.
The tool provides information about various celestial bodies, from stars to planets, and includes imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope and other sources. It also allows users to take virtual tours through galaxies, including the Milky Way.
"By working with some of the industry's leading experts, we've been able to transform Google Earth into a virtual telescope," Lior Ron, a Google product manager, said in a statement.
The new software also promises users the ability to see planets in motion and witness a supernova explosion.
"Sky in Google Earth will foster and initiate new understanding of the universe by bringing it to everyone's home computer," said Dr. Carol Christian of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Current Google Earth users must download a new version from http://earth.google.com. The software works on computers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X and Linux operating systems.
Google, the leading Internet search engine, already provides surface images of Mars and the Moon through its Web site, along with animated and satellite-based maps of Earth.
Google Sky was developed at the company's Pittsburgh engineering office.
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