Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Worldwide Telescope from Microsoft Research

I don’t pretend to be even an amateur astronomer, but found the Worldwide Telescope (WWT) released by Microsoft Research a fascinating application (see In knowledgeable hands, it would have a clear educational use. Simply from a curiosity standpoint, it’s a fascinating tool that enables you to see black holes, colliding galaxies and the birth of new stars.

After you download the 20.2 MB installer, run the installer (instructions are available at and start up the application (it’ll appear on your Start menu), your next step should be to click the Guided Tours link (top left of the screen) and run the “Learning WWT” tour. It’ll give you a quick overview of how to navigate and get the most out of WWT (e.g., use your right mouse button for more information on any “heavenly body,” use the scroll wheel or Page Up and Page Down keys to zoom in or out from an image, click and drag on the star field background to change your view or use the arrow keys to navigate, and so on).

The WWT is considered a “Web 2.0 visualization software” tool that enables your computer to become a virtual telescope. It is a collaborative work because educators and scientists have compiled the images from multiple sources and created guided tools. You, in turn can collaborate, by adding your comments when you complete a tour.

In Microsoft’s verbiage, “WWT is a single rich application portal that blends terabytes of images, information, and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a seamless, immersive, rich media experience. Kids of all ages will feel empowered to explore and understand the universe with its simple and powerful user interface. “Microsoft Research is dedicating Worldwide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray and is releasing WWT as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe like never before.”

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