Today, the WorldWide Telescope has been made available to the general public. You may remember the WorldWide Telescope as the technology that made Scoble cry, but even without that hype, the project stands on its own as an amazing platform for scientific exploration and discovery. This virtual telescope is actually comprised of terabytes of imagery, collected and combined from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Using Microsoft's Visual Experience Engine, you can use the telescope to pan and zoom through the night sky, moving in and around planets, stars, and even galaxies. Of course you can view the moon and the planets with WWT, but the imagery from this telescope also lets you do things you've never been able to before from your computer - like watching stars being born or galaxies collide.
For both scientists and educators, the WorldWide Telescope will help to teach astronomy, computational science, and even provide opportunities for scientific discovery. For users of the telescope, there are rich media tours to that offer narration, music, text, and graphics to guide you through the night sky. It's like going to the planetarium without leaving your home! You can also make your own tours to share with others - a feature that teachers will really enjoy.
I've been playing with WWT tonight and it really is amazing to see the galaxies in their actual positions in the universe and be able to zoom and move them around on the screen. There are several different collections of images to explore - constellations, Hubble images, planets, and many more that I wasn't familiar with but were just as amazing. Click on one of the items from the collection zooms you right to the object in the sky. WWT is rich with technology that will appeal to astronomers, but it's still simple enough for the everyday user.
The telescope is based on technology that came out of Microsoft Research, an area of the company that has operated for 16 years which focuses on long-term, broad-based projects such as this. It's built on work that began with Jim Gray’sSkyServer and contributions to Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
You can view the WorldWide Telescope now from here: www.worldwidetelescope.org.