Imagine terabytes of astronomical imagery, ranging across the spectrum from radio waves to X-rays, seamlessly integrated and available in an easy-to-use interface. Pan left, right, up, down. Zoom in, merge different wavelengths, zoom some more — zoom down to the limit of the data.
The presentation is simply gorgeous. But what makes WorldWide Telescope sing is the interface’s fluidity, which allows you to merge multiwavelength imagery from 10 different observatories — including the Hubble Space Telescope. That’s in part what brought a tear to the eye of tech blogger Robert Scoble: “It’s been a long while since Microsoft did something that had an emotional impact on me like that.” One key to this deft tool is its use of Microsoft’s Photosynth technology.
While I ogled the giant image of M31 and scanned poster papers at the AAS meeting, Microsoft’s Curtis Wong saw my ID badge and scooped me up. “You need to see this,” he said.
What’s important to remember is that this project grew from roots that run deep into the astrophysical community. Wong and Fay know it will interest amateur astronomers, educators, and techno-geeks. But it’s also designed as a research tool for professionals.
Here’s what we know at the moment: WorldWide Telescope will be available for free, but there’s no official release date yet, and it runs only on Windows. Wong and Fay have built it with an eye toward creating an active online community. It will run narrations and tours — some of which will be contributed by users, some by content partners.
I’ve been invited to participate in the software’s current “private alpha” testing, and frankly, I can’t wait. Expect I’ll have much more to say about this when the project launches.
Despite all the usual Microsoft bashing, I think the World Wide Telescope is probably the biggest thing for Astronomy education that has ever happened. We should be grateful as educators for this opportunity to inspire another generation.
This will be fantastic! It won't replace the excitement you feel when you look through your own telescope, but the variety of views sound great. I'm going to have to get some new books!!!!!
I can hardly wait, this should be great, hope it is here soon.