Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Microsoft Worldwide Telescope Launches today

This is a software telescope, but it might just as well be the most powerful telescope in the world. If you love looking at the stars, like I do, then you'll appreciate this project. It's a new technology out of the Microsoft labs and this is the first time it's been made available to the public.

The software provides an interface which shows you the night time sky. You are able to navigate around the universe and see all of the stars, constellations and planets as they would appear in the sky. You can fly light years across the universe to see far away objects. All of the stars and galaxies are in the appropriate configuration relative to each other. It's like being on a spaceship that you can fly anywhere in the universe!

The interface is intuitive to use and takes little time to get the hang of navigating around. All of the images displayed are public images taken from the most powerful telescopes (Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra). The key differences between looking at the image on the various telescope sights is that you get an appreciation for how detailed the images are and how far away the objects are, as you fly out to view the various objects.

The installation of the software is not for the timid. Unfortunately this is still a 'lab product' so you'll need to install several additional components on your computer to make it all work. (e.g. Microsoft .NET Framework plus other stuff) I was fortunate that my computer already had all of the prerequisite software installed for work. But if you have a powerful enough computer (check the requirements) and a few PC skills, it should be easy enough. You won't be disappointed!

You'll also need a fast internet connection as it downloads the high quality images of the various objects.

If you're not up to downloading and installed this first version (I am sure it'll get easier with each release...) then at least check out the videos that they have posted which show the software in action.

Link to download:

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