Google EarthSource: Google

What you need to know

  • Google Earth is being updated for mobile devices.
  • The revamped app adds stars to the Earth's backdrop.
  • The images shown were collected by the European Southern Observatory.

Google Earth on phones is getting a small but pretty upgrade. The backdrop of the Earth is no longer a dull, lifeless sea of black. In its stead, you'll now find the mesmerizing beauty of the Milky Way and the billions of flickering lights that give it its life and luster.

You can now see a view of the stars as you zoom out from Earth on your phone. Rotate the globe, and you'll see images of the beautiful Milky Way, collected from the European Southern Observatory, depicting the stars as they'd appear to a space explorer at a point some 30,000 miles above the planet.

It's no surprise, of course, given that most phones these days pack enough power to shame laptops and desktops from just a few years ago. Really, it's surprising that it took Google so long.

And now that Google Earth's starry sky is finally available on phones, you can gaze at the stars in true 21st-century fashion: by staring at your phone screen, instead of leaving the house and looking up at the sky.

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That's not all, though. Google's Jonathan Cohen also talked up the addition of realistic animated clouds that show off the Earth's weather patterns, as well as the company's guided tours, through Google Earth, of the celestial bodies and the International Space Station.

If that's not enough to convince you the folks at Google are total space geeks — so am I! — then jumping into hyperspace on Google Maps should undoubtedly change your mind.

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