Google Sky Map is an incredible tool that lets you explore the universe from the comfort of your internet browser. 

Learn how to find galaxies, planets and stars, share your favourite places with your friends and enjoy different views of the galaxy in our guide to the software. 

[Read more: Explore the solar system using Google Maps]

What is Google Sky Map? 

Google Sky Map is a map of the stars that shows the celestial world above us. You can explore stars, constellations, galaxies, planets, and images from the Hubble Telescope through the software. Best of all, it’s free to use.

How Google Sky Map works 

To get started just open your browser and go to www.google.com/sky.

To search type what you want to see into the search bar at the top of the screen. Some ideas to start with include Orion, Big Dipper, Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy.

Search

To move through the beautiful skies you can either hold down the mouse and drag it, or you can use the arrows on your keyboard to go up, down, left and right.

To zoom in and out you can press the + or keys, move your cursor and use the mouse scroll button or drag the zoom slider up and down.

Your co-ordinates are shown at the bottom-left of the screen so you can track where you're going. 

[Read more: Google Maps now offers a tour of the solar system]

What can you see on Google Sky Map?

Rather than typing in places you want to see in the search bar, Google helpfully gathers different objects together so you can click through them.

Choose from Solar System, Constellations, Hubble Showcase, Backyard Astromony, Chandra X-Ray Showcase, Galex Ultraviolet Showcase, Spitzer Infrared Showcase.

For instance, if you click on Constellations and then Gemini you can see how the stars form the constellation.

Constellations

Going into the Hubble Showcase you can see some spectacular images that Hubble’s cameras have taken. Also in this tab you get told a bit more information about the images.

Hubble

Share a link on Google Sky Map

If you want to share your astronomical findings with your friends go to the top left and click Link to this page.

Copy the web URL in the top bar to whoever you want to send it to.

Share link

Using Infrared, Microwave and Historical views

To explore the universe in a slightly different way you can click on different views in the top right hand corner, Infrared, Microwave and Historical. You can click on multiple ones at once and use a slider bar.

Infrared is a view of sky from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. Microwave is from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe which shows the universe as it was 380,000 years after the big bang. And, historical is the sky as drawn by Giovanni Maria Cassini that was printed in 1792. 

[Read more: 7 tips and tricks for getting more out of Google Maps]