Google Sky labs

The labs below make astronomy more accessible to students by introducing the subject through the Sky layer of Google Earth. Sky is automatically included in Google Earth, and can be accessed by clicking on the Saturn Icon at the top of the application window, or by going to View->Sky in the drop-down menu.


The Sky layer can be supplemented by user-generated plugins written in a simple markup language called KML. The plugins add interactive features, images, and call scripts that query external databases, like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), so that students can easily engage research grade data.

To load a given plugin the user should start Google Earth, load Sky and then go to File->Open in the drop-down menu and browse for the file. Most plugins are only activated when the viewport stops so, after loading, you have to pan and stop again before the plugin will become active.

Undergraduate Labs

Topics Covered
Files Used
Introduction to Google Sky (PDF/TeX)
Basics of Sky: The surveys included and a quick reference.
some coordinates
The HR Diagram (PDF/TeX, Image)
Stellar Populations: Explore the HR Diagram of Open Clusters, Dwarf Spheroidals, and Globular Clusters in the SDSS, and of field stars in Hipparchos.
SDSS Star Query, SDSS Stellar HR Diagram, Hipparcos Star Query and Hipparcos-HR (thanks to James Stafford). Locations: Open Clusters, Dwarf Spheroidals, and Globular Clusters.
Morphological Types, Spectra of Galaxies, and the Hubble Expansion Law (PDF/TeX)
Constructing the Hubble Diagram: Measure distance from Brightest Cluster Galaxy photometry, and redshifts from galaxy spectrum.
Homogeneity of Space: Show that Galaxy counts are a Poisson distribution on large enough scales.*NOTE, scales listed in the lab are currently actually too small to see Poisson statistics.
Understanding Spectra: Explore the general shape of spectra for various morphological types.
SDSS Galaxy Query w/o redshifts displayed.
Locations: BCGs and random fields
Galaxy environments, clusters of galaxies, and dark matter (PDF/TeX)
Galaxy Environments: Field galaxies, cluster properties and cluster finding
SDSS Galaxy Query and Galaxy Color-Magnitude Diagram. Locations: Clusters, Groups, and Fields (same fields as hubble lab),
*Labs were assembled by Sam Leitner in collaboration with Andrey Kravtsov and Mike Gladders.

Documentation for developers

These efforts are funded by the University of Chicago and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.