I recently came across the astrometry.net project and I have to say that this could turn into one of the best online astronomy tools I’m aware of. The basic idea is that if you have an image of the night sky then the online software will determine where you are looking and what objects you have in the field of view. That’s quite cool and I’m not sure there is any other software that can currently offer this, well not without having to specify certain points. I’m not entirely sure how this is going to work (and it is currently only an alpha release) but it does look very promising. The blurb from their front page emphasizes that this is not just aimed at the professional astronomy – “If you are a professional or amateur astronomer and you’ve ever had an image of the sky whose location or coordinates you did not know—or did not trust—then Astrometry.net is for you.”. I’m now quite eager to play with a release candidate.
I have just come across the wonderful Terapix image taken in 2004 – wow! The image was obtained with “Megacam”, a giant 36-CCD camera mounted at prime focus of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on Mauna Kea. It just blows me away, to give you a quick glimpse see below and you should take a look at the actual image [here]
TERAPIX is funded by the French national research agency (CNRS/INSU), the Programme National de Cosmologie (PNC), the Service d’Astrophysique of the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA), the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris (IAP), and the European FP5 RTD contracts “Astrowise” and “AVO” (Astrophysical Virtual Observatory)