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Microsoft WorldWide Telescope - Wow!
Old 05-16-2008, 10:27 PM   #1
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Microsoft WorldWide Telescope - Wow!

For those RE types into astronomy, here's a great way to spend many, many enjoyable hours. (See LA Times story, below.)

Although the application takes a 'modern' computer (Microsoft's bias showing), if you have such a newer computer and broadband, the graphics are simply fantastic.

Not to be missed...and free.


Microsoft unveils its telescope application

WorldWide Telescope allows viewers to focus on a particular planet or cluster of stars. One astronomer say it offers 'almost a cinematic representation' of the heavens.

By Joseph Menn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
1:57 PM PDT, May 13, 2008

This is a different sort of Maps to the Stars.

Microsoft Corp. late Monday took the wraps off an astonishingly vast visual guide to the universe that is powered by some of the world's best astronomy telescopes.

Developed over the last six years in the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant's research division, Microsoft is releasing the application free of charge in part to show off its Visual Experience Engine. The engine provides smooth panning and zooming that allows viewers to focus on a particular planet or cluster of stars without abandoning the scale of the area surrounding it.

"It's gorgeous, that's the main thing," said curator Laura Danly of the Griffith Observatory. "This is a labor of love and a work of art. It is really deeply thought through."

Microsoft Principal Researcher Curtis Wong said the visual engine was more of a means to a desirable end than an end in itself. "We develop technologies that can help shape future Microsoft products," he said. "In my group, what we try to do is build something with some larger benefit to the public at large."

Available as a free download from, the program works, as one might suspect, only on computers using the most recent Microsoft operating systems, Windows XP and Windows Vista. Apple Inc. computers with those version of Windows can also support the software, which performs best on machines with strong graphics capabilities.

Astronomers and educators said the WorldWide Telescope is important because it amalgamates so much data -- both visual and verbal -- and allows users to examine space as it appears in natural light or with infrared, X-ray and other views.

"NASA operates a number of telescopes that are daily sending back spectacular images. But if you have a single tool that will let you get to all the images and see how they relate in context, it becomes an incredible opportunity for investigation and exploration," said California Institute of Technology astronomer Robert Hurt, who works on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

"One of the nice things about WorldWide Telescope is that it has almost a cinematic representation of the data," Hurt said. Unlike Google Inc.'s space view, Google Sky, "The interface was designed from the ground up to be optimized for sky navigation."

Griffith's Danly agreed, saying that the Google version "is not as ambitious a project."

Besides moving in or out to peer at an object, Telescope viewers can choose perspectives from different locations on Earth. And they can look at the universe as it appeared far in the past, , turning the program into something of a virtual time machine. Hit fast forward and you can watch Jupiter's moons spinning as they orbit the planet.

All of which can be a bit intimidating -- space is, after all, pretty big -- and the navigation takes some getting used to.

But WorldWide Telescope also offers guided tours, in which experts give slide shows on areas of interest. Users can create and share their own slide shows, the best of which will be offered up to all others on the system.

Wong, who grew up in L.A., said he expects the project to be especially popular with students.

"I didn't really see the stars well until I was in high school" because of all the ambient light in the city, Wong said. "About 70% of U.S. kids live in large urban areas, and I doubt if any of them have seen the Milky Way.

"This is my way of showing them."

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Old 05-17-2008, 07:38 AM   #2
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Here's a working link to Microsoft Worldwide Telescope:

WorldWide Telescope (seems a bit buggy--maybe too many downloads)

- plsprius

(PS. How do you edit a first/original post? Can't find the edit button.)

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Old 05-17-2008, 07:55 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by plsprius View Post

(PS. How do you edit a first/original post? Can't find the edit button.)
There is a limit on how long the edit window is open when we post - can't change anything after 6 hours.
Numbers is hard.

Retired in 2005 at age 58, no pension

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Old 05-17-2008, 07:56 AM   #4
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I'll second that WOW! I downloaded it, awesome! Works fine on my VISTA machine, LOL
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Old 05-17-2008, 02:31 PM   #5
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Great. Sure beats freezing my butt outside with my el-cheapo goodwill telescope.
There must be moderation in everything, including moderation.
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Old 05-18-2008, 07:28 PM   #6
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Anytime I see stuff like this I always have to point out that it is more fun to DIY. Here are some astro-photos DD and I took with a home made 6" Dobsonian telescope she made for a science project hooked up to a $15 web cam and free Astrostack software.

These are of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars from the alley behind our house in DC

These are of the moon from the same location
Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler. -- Samuel Johnson
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Old 05-21-2008, 02:24 PM   #7
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i'll never forget the first time i saw the moon out my new jersey bedroom window though my refraction telescope.

never made a dobsonian but i totally love dobson.

John Dobson of The Sidewalk Astronomers
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:30 AM   #8
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Wow! Thanks for the link. I will never forget seeing how incredible the skies looked several years ago when the Midwest was plunged into darkness for days due to the regional power outage. We spent hours out on the deck just gazing at the sky without ANY ambient light to interfer. Wonderous!

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