Google put out a big announcement that it would be shutting down a handful of services, including Picnik, Urchin, Needlebase, Google Message Continuity and the Social Graph API. In that same announcement, the company announced that it was open sourcing Google Sky Map.
Google Sky Map is one of those things that really emphasizes how cool smartphones can really be. I think for me, when I got my first Android phone, this was one of those apps that really drove home the point that we're now living in "the future". You're looking at bodies in outer space with your phone. That's pretty cool (and yes, I know there is a similar app for iOS).
On the Google Research Blog, Google had this to say:
In May 2009 we launched Google Sky Map: our “window on the sky” for Android phones. Created by half a dozen Googlers at the Pittsburgh office in our 20% time, the app was designed to show off the amazing capabilities of the sensors in the first generation Android phones. Mostly, however, we wrote it because we love astronomy. And, thanks to Android’s broad reach, we have managed to share this passion with over 20 million Android users as well as with our local community at events such as the Urban Sky Party.
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. Additionally, we have open-sourced the app so that other astronomy enthusiasts can take the code and augment it as they wish.
The post also shares an email from a user that used the app to show off the planets to his son, and as a parent, I can definitely identify with that. I'm glad Sky Map wasn't on the "shut down" list of Google products.