Microsoft’s WorldWideTelescope – Use Your Browser to Explore the Universe (August 23, 2010)

Posted: August 23, 2010 by Mike Hubbartt in Academia, Software Reviews, Space Exploration
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by Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I’m an amateur astronomer. I had a refracting telescope long before I owned a personal computer, and I used my telescope  to take more than a few photos of solar eclipses as well as planets in our solar system.I don’t own a telescope right now, but have my eye on a nice Celestron when the budget will enable me to make the purchase without raising the ire of my supportive wife.

What is an astronomy fan to do without a telescope? My preferences are to watch shows on the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel or use computer software. I’ve been a long time fan of astronomy software for computers and have used and reviewed a lot of different products on a wide variety of platforms. One of my older favorites was Distant Suns, which I used on my old Amiga 3000. A couple of newer products I use on my Macbook and PC laptops are Starry Night and Voyager 4.52, both excellent products and absolutely worth the cost of the software.

Why all the background? Because we now live in the age of the internet, where data and  data access is far greater than any time in the history of our culture. Some recent uses of the internet have been of special interest to students, namely Google Earth and Microsoft’s WorldWideTelescope. Most people are probably familiar with Google Earth, so let’s spend a few minutes talking about WorldWideTelescope.

What is WorldWideTelescope? A browser-based (or Windows client) product from Microsoft that provides impressive images of the planets in our solar system, as well as guided tours of nebula/galaxies/planets/black holes/star clusters/supernova. It is easy to select an item to examine, and there are a number of ways to view the images. Once you select a planet or stellar object to visit, just double-click on it to move in for greater detail.

One negative point about the tours. I took the Mars tour, which streamed from wwt.nasa.gov. The audio was either out of sequence with the video, or the speaker’s voice was drowned out by the musical soundtrack. The video also was not smooth, but it was watchable. I also saw the video on extrasolar planets, and the audio and video were much better than the Mars tour.

Why bother with a web-based astronomy product? It is 1. An excellent way to learn about space, and 2. is free. Stop by and check it out here.

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