When I finally got an Android device of my own a few years back, the first application I downloaded was Google Sky Map; one of the “20% Time” projects Google thought was good enough for large scale release. Sky Map was designed as an example of what could be done with the myriad of sensors available in even a first-gen Android device like the G1, but eventually took on a life of it’s own, captivating over 20 million Android users with the wonders of the night sky.
With Google scaling back on these side projects to streamline their operations, there was some concern as to what would happen to this very popular piece of software. Google has just given us the answer to that question by announcing their intent to open source Sky Map and turn it into a collaborative project.
Today, we are delighted to announce that we are going to share Sky Map in a different way: we are donating Sky Map to the community. We are collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University in an exciting partnership that will see further development of Sky Map as a series of student projects. Sky Map’s development will now be driven by the students, with Google engineers remaining closely involved as advisors.
Google Sky Map’s Future
I won’t lie, while Google Sky Map was one of the things that really blew me away by Android devices, it’s been 3 years since it’s release and a few newer and better applications have come on the scene and really stolen it’s thunder. I grabbed Star Chart when it was part of the $0.10 sale awhile back, and it completely blows Sky Map out of the water in terms of features and the information it gives you. As somewhat of an amateur astronomer, the data Star Chart gives you on the positions and magnitudes of the sky objects is invaluable. Sky Map is a neat toy, but Star Chart is an informational tool.
Hopefully, by open sourcing Sky Map and partnering with Carnegie Mellon University, Sky Map will get a new lease on life and morph into something a little bit more competitive. Some of Sky Map’s features, such as guiding the user to sky objects and it’s “Time Warp” ability really stand out even against the newer breed of apps; and I’d love to see a combination of the easy to use interface of Sky Map with more robust astronomical data.