World Wide Telescope – ready for launch to a desktop near you.

I’ve just downloaded World Wide Telescope, Microsoft’s latest offering to the world. It’s free and here’s why(according to their What is World Wide Telescope page);

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. 

That’s very nice of Microsoft, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s not a response to the open source revolution that is taking place. Regardless, it looks like an amazing tool that is going to be a truly wonderful resource for Science teachers and anyone with an interest in checking out the universe.

I’ma bit of a night sky lover. A few years ago a friend and I spent some nights getting up at 2am and drove to a sports field so that we could check out meteor showers that were visible. We saw some incredible meteors; the most spectaculor one blazed across the sky and was a true aha moment. It sounds cliche, but losing yourself in the night sky does make you question our purpose here – why is it that we push ourselves so hard and get caught up in the minutiae of life?

Enough philosophising! I lost myself in World Wide Telescope for 45 mins and didn’t notice time passing. Still don’t know how to navigate it properly. Best remedy for this is to introduce it to a class and let them work it out for me! Or alternately, take this advice from Microsoft;

Click the top of the Guided Tours tab and then click the Welcome thumbnail to watch a guided tour showing you how to navigate in WWT.

It’s a big file to download (20MB) but it’s pretty impressive. Give it a try.


One Reply to “World Wide Telescope – ready for launch to a desktop near you.”

  1. Thanks for the headsup! While the application doesn’t seem to be a real time telescope visualization, it should be very helpful for teachers, parents and enthusiasts.

    I too am a bit skeptical, but Microsoft has vast amounts of unpublished and old software that could be applied to a web application. They have already spent the money to make the software, so their cost is minimal.

    I have downloaded this web application, and I will check it out. In the early 1990’s, Microsoft made the ultimate children’s science encyclopedia called Explorapedia. It was a marvel, yet it is now defunct.

    Explorapedia had a “helper” and a game like interface. Kids would spend hours looking and learning.

    There was even a book written about the whole creative process behind Explorapedia called “I Sing the Body Electronic”. I guess Ray Bradbury didn’t mind a twist on his earlier short story, “I Sing the Body Electric”.

    These various astronomy images I saw on the World Wide Telescope website looked very similar to those you could access in the old Microsoft Explorapedia. NASA also has similar astronomy mashups, and their work is available for download and free use to any who want to use it, so it may be another source for this creation. I don’t know, but I too am skeptical.

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