WorldWide Telescope: Technology's Solution To Get Around Smog (To View The Night Sky)

by Jon Davis 28. June 2008 22:41

*sob* I just spent about three hours writing up a detailed blog post about WorldWide Telescope, which is a software invention from Microsoft Research that makes terebytes of photos of the night sky available for free to the Windows-using public, and had the whole thing done except to add one last media element, when one of my hard drives flaked out and the computer locked up for a couple minutes and suddenly rebooted to the BIOS screen.

I'll refrain from trying to reproduce the whole blog post, or at least for now (I'm bummed out), but I wanted to share the URL:

.. and a few images. The software displays the entire spherical panorama of the night sky, at first looking just like the night sky looks just like when you look up with a naked eye on a clear night. But you can scroll and zoom in on any particular heavenly body.

The zoom-in details from the telescope sources are astounding and spectacular:

I also liked the user interface implementation, and the integration of web-based resources:


Besides the images, the key points I wanted to make about this that excites me are .. 

  1. This is free software that is not only commercial quality but is complete enough, I believe, that it would be a dream tool for a serious astronomer reviewing preexisting data
  2. This software can compete with the most immserive experiences at science museums and/or planetariums.
  3. The Guided Tours are awesome, and very similar to getting a tour at a planetarium (but in some ways much more detailed), and the people who host some of them are notewothy contributors ranging from PBS/Nova to major planetariums/museums to Astronomy Magazine to adorable six-year-old Benjamin. 
  4. Sci-fi entertainment software (i.e. EVE Online), meet your match on immersion and detail!!
  5. Google,, Amazon Web Services, SETI @ Home, et al, meet your match on Internet landmark software demonstrations of how mainframe databases, Internet networking, and personal computers can work together to make insanely useful supercomputing grid applications available on a PC.
  6. Commercial educational astronomy software vendors, start looking for new career paths!! Looks like this free software is so complete, rich, and detailed, that, well, no one will need your software anymore. (Tragic.)


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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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