Downloaded and installed the latest release of Google Earth, 4.2.0180.1134 (beta). Here's a simple screenshot of it running on openSuse 10.2 and algol.
The latest version has a Sky mode (YouTube product demo), which is selected via a switch at the top of the window. I've spent a few minutes just looking at some of the pre-selected destinations under the Hubble Showcase. The example above is Messier 101.
There's just something seductive about flying around interstellar space from star to star, galaxy to nebula. I feel like a kid again in the 60's when I bought my first telescope at K-mart in Atlanta, a basic Newtonian with three eye pieces and a sun filter. It cost $50 of hard-earned yard mowing profits. The place I lived in at the time had a high hill in the back yard that allowed me to look down and over the roof of the house and into wide open sky. I remember seeing Saturn's rings, Jupiter and its moons, Mars, our moon, and the transit of Mercury across the Sun. I even invited a fellow star-gazer and neighbor, Mike Langford, over to look through it. The telescope was bare boned, and I had to learn to constantly shift and focus by hand to keep targets of opportunity in view. But I did learn, and it quickly became second nature with time and practice. I hadn't really remembered it much until now, running this version of Google Earth.