The Virtual Telescope is a useful and entertaining way to explore the wonders of the heavens without having to buy your own equipment, or spending the night in the cold, losing sleep, sitting (or standing) in cramped positions, or fighting the weather, just to get a glimpse of the stars.

Don't get me wrong, this is no substitute for the real thing, but if you don't have the option of doing your own, first-hand observations, the Virtual Telescope is a good "fallback plan".

The virtual Telescope uses the Google Earth plugin, in "Sky Mode", to view the cosmos. The functions that control where the telescope points toward use the SIMBAD astronomical database to obtain the positional data, based on the name of the object that you're looking for.

Sadly, the Google Earth plugin can't handle objects within our solar system, mainly because they "move" too much, but not to worry, because there's a "fallback" option. If the object that you're looking for is either a solar system object, or can't be found in the SIMBAD database, the telescope will search NASA's Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD) image database for an image that (sort of) matches the object that you desire. One advantage of this is that you don't necessarily need to look for a celestial object. You can also look for things like "apollo 17", or images of sun-grazing comets, by typing "soho comet", or just about anything else that is space related.

Just bear in mind that the APOD image search is far from perfect, and the images that are returned aren't alsways relevant to your search. I'm working on finding alternate image databased to search, but for now, the APOD images will just have to do.

Feedback is always welcome, so if you have any questions, comments, or (God forbid) complaints, I encourage you to use my handy-dandy Contace Page to let me know what's going on. Thanks for using the Virtual Telescope, and have fun!