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Google unveils high Sky

  Venture Business News  -   POSTED: 2007/08/23 09:07

Google Earth users will be able to look zoom far beyond planet Earth. At its Pittsburgh office, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc. on Wednesday unveiled Sky, a new component of Google Earth that allows users to browse and view what's in the sky.

With Sky, users can zoom in on the moon, planets, stars, constellations and galaxies. Some include image photos and information bars. With a click, someone zooming in on Pittsburgh could reverse the image and see what stars can currently be seen from Pittsburgh. Users can also advance in time to see where planets will be located on a given date or when a meteor shower will occur.

"(We've taken) terabytes of data and made it easily accessible to anyone," said Andrew Connolly, an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington and a visiting faculty member. "We are hoping astronomers around the world will share it (information) with everybody."

Sky was developed by Google's Pittsburgh office, which was opened in 2006 and now has more than 50 engineers, according to Andrew Moore, director of Google's Pittsburgh Engineering Office. The idea stemmed from a Google visiting faculty program with the University of Washington.

"Google Pittsburgh engineers made it possible," Connolly said.

According to Moore, Google's Pittsburgh office is primarily focused on Google infrastructure, computer understanding of text, developing systems for detecting fraud and advertising quality. Engineers worked on the Sky project during so-called 20 percent time, where employees can spend 20 percent of their time working on a project of their choice.

"Today is an example of 20 percent time," Moore said in reference to the Sky project unveiling. "(They do) cool, fun, interesting things on the side."


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