Google Sky For Beginners

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Google Sky For Beginners Gregg1956 9/3/11 12:50 AM
In this tutorial you will learn how to:
  • Identify stars, galaxies, and nebulae
  • Find the most interesting objects and learn about them
  • Identify UFO's, space worms, and weird stuff

Identifying Objects



In the layers panel (left side) under Backyard Astronomy, you can use the three catalogs to identify a great many objects. In the above example I used the New General Catalog to identify the galaxy in the center as NGC 2713. The pop-up info balloon will take you to more information on the web. The same can be done with the Messier and Yale Bright Star Catalogs.

Note: it is important to realize that there are billions of stars and galaxies and a great many of them have not been catalogued. If an object cannot be identified with the above method (and many can't) there are other ways to search for an identity. I will add a tutorial about that later. But even if you find an object that has no name or number, it doesn't mean you've made a "discovery". It most likely means there are a million just like it and nobody bothered to name it or study it.

Using Layers To Tour The Universe



This, I think, is one of the coolest features in Sky. I'll show you how to fly all over the universe and view the most interesting objects.

In the Layers panel, under Featured Observatories, check the box next to Hubble Showcase. There will now be placemarks all over the sky. You can click on any one of them to get started. Now comes the fun part......



If you scroll down in the placemark balloon, you will see the panel with five categories (shown above). My favorites are Unusual Galaxies and Planetary Nebulae. Click on the tab for the category and it will fly you to the first object in that category. Then read about that object and scroll down and click on the next unusual galaxy and it will fly you there... and so on and so on. Using this method you will see the most beautiful objects in the universe.

UFO's, Space Worms, and Weird Stuff

If you are looking for UFO's in Google Sky I have some bad news: there aren't any. Sorry.

How can I be so sure? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that UFO's really exist, they are visiting our planet and flying all over the universe.

You still won't see them in Google Sky. The telescopes in observatories are designed to capture light sources millions of light years away. They don't do well with light sources nearby.





The green, red, and blue streaks in the SDSS image above were caused by a commercial jet flying over New Mexico, captured by the green, red, and blue filters of the telescope at the Apache Point Observatory. The green line in the DSS image might be a meteor, a satellite, an airplane, the International Space Station..... or a UFO.

The point is that a UFO and an airplane would look exactly the same: just a line across the image. Any craft in outer space simply would not show up! The smallest visible object in outer space is a star. Stars are pretty big. wink

Space worms? Believe it or not there has been more than one user claiming to have found one. How it exists in a vacuum without food or water or anything to breathe while being bombarded with deadly radiation was not explained. laugh

I think it was hair or lint on the photographic plate used during the image processing.

There are thousands of weird looking data errors in Google Sky. Please please please read Markopolo's Sky Data Problems Compendium before posting weird things you may find. They are most likely explained there, as well as having been discussed in the forums far too many times.

The universe has some fascinating things to view and learn about. I hope this tutorial has helped you to discover the beauty for yourself.

Note: "Identifying Objects Part II" has been added below.
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Re: Google Sky For Beginners ET_Explorer_2012 9/3/11 1:25 AM
Nice work, and Very Creative, Gregg

Thanks grin
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Re: Google Sky For Beginners Sjakie2010 9/3/11 1:49 AM
This is very helpful Gregg. I look forward to your tutorial.
Re: Google Sky For Beginners BeadieJay 9/3/11 2:31 AM
Fantastic work Gregg, I've made it a sticky at the top of the forum so everyone will be able to find it easily.

Well done laugh
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Re: Google Sky For Beginners Gregg1956 9/3/11 7:22 AM
Thanks everyone. blush smile And thanks for the sticky BDJ.
Google Sky For Beginners - alternate ID method Gregg1956 9/21/11 1:01 PM
Identifying Objects Part II

Simbad & NED Databases

You've found an object that you can't identify using the methods described earlier. What's next?



First of all, make sure the Status Bar is activated so you can easily view the coordinates at the bottom of the GE viewer. In Sky (and all of astronomy) coordinates are calculated with "Ra" (Right Ascension) and "Dec" (Declination) rather than with longitude and latitude.

The Simbad Database

Figure 1


Above is a random star that isn't identified in the catalogs within the Backyard Astronomy Layer. We need the coordinates. Zoom in real close (closer than shown) by double clicking on the star. We want the coordinates of the very center of that star. Note: when you move your mouse around the viewer screen the coordinates in the Status Bar change to wherever the mouse is. For accurate coordinates move the mouse outside of the viewer (or make sure it's dead center of the star).

What I do next is to type the coordinates shown in the status bar into the search box where Mr. Hand is pointing. (Figure 1 above.) This saves me from having to jump back and forth from G Sky to the database. I just copy & paste it.

Take a moment to compare what I've typed to what the status bar shows. I did not use the h,m, or s (hours, minutes, seconds) or the symbols for degrees, feet, and inches. The minus sign, however, is very important.

Now let's go to the Simbad Database - click here.

Figure 2


Now just paste the coordinates into the box and press the "submit query" button. (Figure 2 above.)

You'll get results that look like this:

Figure 3


In this case there were two results returned. The first one, HD 74409, is our star. Your search may get no results, one result, or a long list of results. Generally, the first one is what you are looking for. So we click on HD 74409 and we have our identification:



That's it for Simbad. Speaking only for myself, if an object doesn't show up in Simbad I quit looking. There are more places to look, and you may find an ID with some basic data, but for my purposes I don't need to go there. If an object has been well studied and written about, it's in Simbad.

But I'll show you one more method.....

The NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED)



What's that big red star? Let's ask NED!

Figure 4


This database is very similar to Simbad, except you have to enter the Ra and Dec coordinates separately (where Mr. Hand is pointing). Notice, again, that I only typed the numbers. Three numbers for "Ra" (last one with a decimal point) and three for "Dec". Then click the "Near Position Search" button.

NED returns a long list of everything nearby:

Figure 5


Like Simbad, the first result is most likely what you want, if you've entered the coordinates accurately. Compare the coordinates of each object returned against the object you are looking for.

Our big red star is HD 083631.

One more thing before I go........



About 75% of Google Sky imagery is from DSS, the other 25% is from SDSS. If you want to identify an object in SDSS check out my tutorial for the SDSS Query KMZ.

That's it for now! Hope this helps you to further explore our skies.

Special thanks to Mr. Hand for helping with this presentation.
Re: Google Sky For Beginners - alternate ID method BeadieJay 9/21/11 4:20 PM
Another great post Gregg, thank you so much for all your hard work, and my thanks also to Mr Hand for a fantastic job grin
Re: Google Sky For Beginners - alternate ID method Markopolo 9/21/11 10:02 PM
Originally Posted By: Gregg1956
...For accurate coordinates move the mouse outside of the viewer (or make sure it's dead center of the star)...
Very minor critique to your most excellent post, Gregg. I've found that if you move the mouse outside the viewer, the status bar shows the RA/Dec coordinates for the location on the perimeter of the GSky viewer where your cursor exited the viewer window, which is NOT accurate, in most cases. It's better (or at least more accurate) to place the cursor precisely where you want it, then read off the coordinates.

Other than that little tidbit,
I really liked your posts, Gregg. We've needed something like this for awhile. Perhaps you can build upon it as needed.

Great job! wave

<Edit to add>Well, you're right again, I didn't notice that the status bar read off the center with the cursor outside the viewer. D'oh!!!
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Re: Google Sky For Beginners - alternate ID method Gregg1956 9/21/11 10:16 PM
Mine doesn't do that. As soon as the mouse leaves the viewer the coordinates are for the center. I've been doing it this way with accurate results for a long time. I did it with both of these stars.

Glad you mentioned it though. I wonder if other people's do it... or is just YOU! grin Or is mine the only one that works correctly? what
Re: Google Sky For Beginners - alternate ID method Hill 9/22/11 7:15 AM
Great job Gregg. Another outstanding explanation. And I think it is just Markopolo because your method has always worked for me also. (For once it's not just me smirk )
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Re: Google Sky For Beginners - alternate ID method Gregg1956 9/22/11 10:38 AM
Thanks Hill, and thanks Marko. That's cleared up.

Thanks BeadieJay. Mr. Hand says "Hi". grin
Re: Google Sky For Beginners Noisette 10/28/11 2:24 PM
As others have said, this is great Gregg smile It has been included in the "Top content" section of the October 2011 edition of the Google Earth Sightseer newsletter so that it will reach a wider audience. Those wishing to subscribe to the Sightseer can do so here.
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Re: Google Sky For Beginners Gregg1956 10/29/11 10:06 AM
Thanks Noisette. smile I hope this will help introduce the beauty and wonder of our universe, and astronomy/science, to lots of people.
Re: Google Sky For Beginners kite_surfer 11/9/11 9:55 PM
Hi Gregg,

I hope you remember the PM I wrote long while back:

Originally Posted By: me (Kite_surfer)
"I AM interested in sky, but cannot even begin to understand your Niburu post.. It would help a great deal if you make any future posts more accessible to anyone in the world, not only to (amateur) astronomers! It's my guess that if you do that, you might be the first pioneer to make sky more accessible to anyone in the world. Better yet, you could make a post to describe the basics of GE Sky so that newbies like me are likely to get interested!"

Not only did you make GE Sky more accessible to the world, you've also done a great job in visualizing it all by using GIF animations. wink This Google Sky for Beginners post is definitely worth to be mentioned in the Sightseer's Newsletter.

Thanks for what obviously would have been a tedious Strenuous job to do, Gregg. ocool
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Re: Google Sky For Beginners Gregg1956 11/9/11 10:33 PM
Thank you Kite_surfer. smile One point I'd like to clarify: I've been making animated gif's for many years, long before I joined the GEC. I mainly use Paint Shop Pro, which costs a few bucks. What I asked you was if you knew of a good free (and simple) program for making gif's because I was helping someone else here in learning to make them. I do remember our conversation, now that you mention it, about Nibiru/G Sky.

You have, indeed, helped and inspired me many times. You got me into musical tours which is what I love to do most. And 3D models!

This tutorial was actually a lot of fun in the making. Yes, a lot of work went into it, but it didn't seem tedious. I'm so excited about astronomy that I just wanted to bring it to everybody. smile

I saw that your Beavers in the Netherlands post was also selected for Sightseer's Newsletter. Well done!
(unknown) 3/15/12 11:41 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: Google Sky For Beginners M4SS 8/30/12 7:49 PM
Once i find some object who doesnt have a name, like a galaxy, how do i proceed?
Re: Google Sky For Beginners Gregg1956 8/30/12 9:23 PM
Scroll up to the post that says Identifying Objects Part II Simbad & NED Databases and try that method. It works with galaxies too.
(unknown) 11/1/13 8:25 PM <This message has been deleted.>
(unknown) 12/12/13 12:16 AM <This message has been deleted.>