Google has just released a new, interactive star map that allows you to point, click and zoom your way around our local volume of galactic space. 100,000 Stars has detailed information on dozens of nearby stars, including accurate, 3D animations of binary stars orbiting each other and close-ups of the superheated filaments rearing up from the surface on the surface of our own sun.
The Google Creative Lab team that developed this awesome map writes:
Visualizing the exact location of every star in the galaxy is a problem of, well, galactic proportions. With over 200 billion stars, capturing every detail of the Milky Way currently defies scientists and laptops alike. However, using imagery and data from a range of sources, including NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), we were recently able to take one small step in that direction by plotting the location of the stars closest to our sun . . . The experiment makes use of Google Chrome's support for WebGL, CSS3D, and Web Audio. Music was generously provided by Sam Hulick, who video game fans may recognize as a composer for the popular space adventure series, Mass Effect.
Remember this is an artistic representation of the galaxy, so not every single thing you see is perfectly accurate — especially the close-up views of the surfaces of nearby stars.
To view 100,000 Stars, you have to use a Chrome browser. Start by clicking "play" to see an introduction to the app — and then have fun for the rest of the day, learning about our galactic neighborhood!