This is accessible by clicking on the Sky button on the top toolbar. There’s also a link on the toolbar to Google Maps. Once you’ve clicked on the Sky button, you can search for places, such as the Orion Nebula (shown below)
The ruler function is grayed out – but calculating distances precisely in light years was probably too much to ask anyway! Clicking on the particular star/constellation/feature brings up information, just as with the terrestrial version. No doubt the GE community will feverishly add new information and content to Sky soon.
The second noteworthy addition to Google Earth for educators is a book layer, as announced on the Google LatLong blog. Whilst Sky will be of great benefit to science teachers, the book layer will be fantastic for English teachers. The layer adds geo-markers to places mentioned in great texts. To get to it, go to Google Book Search in the ‘Featured Content’ menu:
Once you’ve turned on the layer, small book icons appear when you start zooming in to various places:
This builds upon the Places Mentioned In This Book feature from Google Book Search, launched back in January 2007. Given that the book search indexes books in the public domain, you’re not going to find anything recent in there, but it’s still a very engaging and interesting way to present what can sometimes be somewhat dry. 🙂