At least for any would be Science Fiction writers. In November Google launched this map of the milky way based on known astronomical data called 100,000 Stars. I was busy looking for some kind of information on the Perseus arm of the Milky way for a new project when I literally stumbled across it.
One minor Caveat. The browser application requires a delicate touch with the mouse to navigate, and the bigger your screen the better. I’m going to check it out using the web facility on our Smart TV.
While not encyclopaedic, it’s a work in progress and will no doubt improve as all these open source projects do. I’m seriously impressed. Well done all.
Update: Doesn’t work on our ‘Smart’ TV. At least directly off the Internet. Just keeps on cycling through the ‘Focusing Optics’ stage. I suppose if I used a VGA cable from my venerable laptop I could get a reasonable result. Probably the issue with only support up to Flash 8 that a lot of Samsung and LG sets have.