Google has put online a web application for its Chrome browser called “100,000 Stars” that allows you to explore an area of the Milky Way which includes one hundred thousand stars. This is an interactive application with various features that allow to zoom in and out to go from the Sun to the entire “neighborhood” with all the possible intermediate steps.
This application is part of a series of experiments conducted by Google in creating web applications of various types that use a variety of technologies such as HTML5, WebGL, CSS3D and WebAudio. This interactive three-dimensional map includes several functions in addition to the simple zoom and there’s also the opportunity to take a tour in an automatic way, allowing the application to takes us on a journey through the stars.
In addition to the zoom, there are various possibilities for exploration and part of the fun is finding out what you can do. For example, you can enable the display of the various spectral types of the stars to see them in colors that reflect their surface temperature.
For some of the stars, you can also click on their name to get information about them. The source of these data is Wikipedia and the map was created using images and information from NASA, ESA and other sources.
The journey is accompanied by a music composed by Sam Hulick, the creator of the music for the videogame series Mass Effect, that allows you to relax while watching a virtual journey through the stars. If you have a large enough screen, it’s really a fantastic view!
This application has been designed to work in Google Chrome, not in other browsers. I’ve tried it in the latest version of Firefox and it works but there are no guarantees. From what I read, in Internet Explorer it doesn’t even start and it’s possible that i doesn’t work in part or at all with other browsers.
Have fun exploring the solar system, the Oort cloud, the best known stars and the rest of the group of 100,000 stars for a trip in the immensity of the cosmos being aware that this map covers only a really tiny part of the universe!