Called 100,000 Stars, this is a fully-immersive 3D plot of (in fact) 119,617 stars and is presented as a Google Chrome App. It will not load in any other browser, attempting to do so results in the message: "Either your graphics card or your browser does not support WebGL. Please try again on a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer using Google Chrome or another WebGL-Compatible browser. You can watch a video preview of the experiment below."
According to Aaron Koblin's blog posting to announce the project, "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 result is a new Chrome Experiment called 100,000 Stars that visualizes the stellar neighborhood. Using your mouse or trackpad, you can zoom in and out to explore our galaxy. Zooming in reveals the names of the most prominent stars close to our sun - click each name to learn more about it and see a digital rendition."
Koblin concludes, "As you explore this experiment, we hope you share our wonder for how large the galaxy really is. It's incredible to think that this mist of 100,000 measurable stars is a tiny fraction of the sextillions of stars in the broader universe."
Pretty-darned impressive! The ability to zoom, rotate and move throughout the stars is great. Even better is the Wikipedia-linked information on the closest hundred or so stars. Just click on a named star for the full goss.
Please note that the Google team do include one important warning when using this tool:
Warning: Scientific accuracy is not guaranteed. Please do not use this visualization for interstellar navigation.
Of course iTWire proposes to ignore this warning at the very first opportunity!