Google Earth given celestial view

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Yellow Belt
The constellations of Andromeda, Hydra and Vulpecula are now just a mouse click away for amateur star-gazers, following the launch of Google Sky.

The tool is an add-on to Google Earth, a program that allows users to search a 3D rendition of our planet's surface.

Sky will allow astronomers a chance to glide through images of more than one million stars and 200 million galaxies.

Optional layers allow users to explore images from the Hubble Space Telescope as well as animations of lunar cycles.

"The basic idea is to take Google Earth and turn it on its head," Ed Parsons, Geospatial technologist at Google told the BBC News website.

"So rather than using it to view imagery of the Earth, use it to view imagery of space."

Dr John Mason of the British Astronomical Association, Britain's largest body for amateur astronomers said: "Light pollution and air pollution is now so bad in many areas that all you can see when you look up is a few dozen stars.

"If this helps people to realise just what they are missing, it is a jolly good thing."

Clear view

To use the new system, users will need to have Google Earth installed on their computer.

Digital astronomers can then zoom into an area from which they want to view the night sky.

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