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the final frontier

Google's '100,000 Stars' project brings the stellar neighborhood closer to home

Google recently released their latest science project, a galactic visualization simulator they call “100,000 Stars.” The web application developed by the search engine company’s research division, Google Labs, allows the user to explore our stellar neighborhood using either Chrome or Firefox web browsers.

Using data collected by NASA and the European Space Agency, Google has put together an interactive map of 100,000 of the stars nearest to our solar system, including our closest neighbor, Alpha Centauri.

By clicking and zooming the user can adjust the orientation of the Milky Way and get a closer look at some of the larger, studied stars within the galaxy. Each of the named stars has a brief description as well as an artistic rendition of what the star might look like close up.

100,000 Stars isn’t just a step forward in mapping the galaxy, it’s also a benchmark test for Google’s powerful Chrome web browser. The web application uses advanced technologies such as WebGL, CSS3D and Web Audio to create a fluid, and seamless interactive product that is a sure indication of what the internet is becoming and what it will be capable of doing.

Along with ability to explore the galaxy individually, Google has also included a guided tour scored by acclaimed video game composer Sam Hulick, best known for the atmospheric tunes he created for the sci-fi trilogy Mass Effect.

The project is a small but important step toward public understanding of the universe, and Google has done a great job of making the experience both accessible and engaging. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer massiveness of our galaxy, jumping from star to star and obtaining a solid grasp of just how unfathomably large the universe is.

Take some time over the holiday to explore the galaxy with Google, and be thankful that publicly advancing scientific knowledge is still important in our tiny, fraction of the universe.

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100,000 Stars currently supports Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox web browsers, but works best within Google’s own product.

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