September 19th, 2007 | Published in Google Research
We've gotten an incredible amount of positive feedback about Sky in Google Earth, which lets Google Earth users explore the sky above them with hundreds of millions of stars and galaxies taken from astronomy imagery.
From the start though, we have wanted to open the sky up to everyone. As a first step, we've been hard at work developing tools to let astronomers add their own imagery, and we think we've come up with something that does the job nicely. We're pleased to announce the availability of wcs2kml, an open source project for importing astronomical imagery into Sky.
Modern telescopes output imagery in the FITS binary format that contains a set of headers known as a World Coordinate System (that's the "wcs" part) specifying the location of the image on the sky. Wcs2kml handles the task of transforming this imagery into the projection system used by Google Earth (the "kml" part) so that it can be viewed directly in Sky. Wcs2kml also includes tools to simplify uploading this data to a web server and sharing it with friends.
We were astounded at the imagery and novel applications people created when we opened the Google Earth API to our users. Now, by opening Sky in Google Earth to the astronomy community, we hope to open a floodgate of new imagery for Sky!