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WorldWide Telescope

WorldWide Telescope: terapixel image of SagittariusWorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables seamless panning and zooming across the night sky, blending terabytes of images, data, and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a media-rich immersive experience.

WorldWide Telescope is a collaborative effort between Microsoft Research and a variety of academic and governmental agencies. Microsoft Research is making WorldWide Telescope available as a free resource to the astronomy and education community with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe as never before.

New Features

WorldWide Telescope now brings viewers the largest and clearest image of the night sky ever produced. This full-color, 24-bit RGB terapixel image provides viewers an extraordinary sensation of panning the sky with the world’s most powerful telescope.

Another recent development, interactive images and an exciting new NASA data set now enable viewers to explore the features of Mars virtually. New features include a true-color map of Mars, astonishing 3-D rendering of the surface of the planet, and exclusive interactive video tours with two NASA scientists.

WorldWide Telescope Developer Programs

Developers can customize the use of WorldWide Telescope to get their own message across in several different ways.

  • Tours—Tours are animated slide-shows of the Cosmos, the Solar System, or the Earth as seen from space. Tours are easily authored within WorldWide Telescope by using the creation and editing screens, menus, and dialogs. Beginner tours can show off some of the great imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope. Advanced tours can zoom in on very specific areas of space—from a planet-forming region of dust to an individual canyon or crater on a planet—and have a scientific audio track to match.
  • Data—Data for WorldWide Telescope is stored in WTML, a specialized XML file format. Data can include references to new images, locations in space or on Earth, or another moon or planet. Developers can import their own images and create data files within the program, or alternatively author the WTML directly by hand or by using their own custom tools. As an example, data files have been prepared this way containing tens of thousands of detailed images and locations on Mars.
  • Layers and Shape Files—Data held in spreadsheet format can be loaded and displayed with a variety of visualization options. For example, earthquake data, including latitude, longitude and depth below the surface, can be displayed in 3-D and in a time-series of events. Layering of shape files allows some fixed data, such as state boundaries or watersheds, to be displayed in conjunction with the dynamic spreadsheet data.
  • Programs—WorldWide Telescope comes in two versions, a Windows client that has all the features but does not support an SDK, and a web client that has fewer features but includes an SDK with a comprehensive set of API calls. This SDK gives developers the flexibility to create their own custom user interfaces to WorldWide Telescope, using their own custom data. Examples of how the SDK has been used include programs to display the Kepler Planet Hunter search grid on the sky—and all the planets located so far, a program to sort and search through many thousands of locations on a planet surface, and a program to load and display a private collection of astronomical photographs. JScript and HTML are the required technologies for using the SDK.

WorldWide Academic Program

The WWT Academic Program facilitates and enhances WWT-based research and education collaboration with academics worldwide.

Highlights include:

  • WorldWide Telescope Apogee release, July 2010
    Now you can use WorldWide Telescope (WWT) to explore the features of Mars as never before, thanks to the addition of more than 13,000 incredibly detailed images of Mars from various NASA spacecraft. Zoom in on the Red Planet and experience the Martian surface in unbelievably lifelike 3-D rendering, and learn more about our planetary neighbor with new interactive guided tours of Mars. And the enhancements to WWT don’t stop there. Now the WWT view of the night sky is even more amazing, with a seamless, high-resolution representation that smooths out the contours between discrete images. Gone are the visible “tiles”—those sharp edges where individual telescopic photos were combined to create the night sky panorama. This enhanced view, called the Terapixel sky image, provides an extraordinary sensation of panning the sky with the world’s most powerful telescope.
  • WorldWide Telescope demoed at ISTE 2010, June 2010
    In partnership with Microsoft Education, WorldWide Telescope demonstrations were carried out in full-dome-projection mode at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE 2010 conference. WorldWide Telescope tours and talks were held in an inflatable dome, enabling visitors to see WorldWide Telescope in an immersive 3-D environment.
  • WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program
    Launched in January 2010 in partnership with Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and WGBH, the WWT Ambassadors Program is recruiting astronomically-literate volunteers—including retired scientists and engineers—all of whom will be trained to be experts in using WWT as a teaching tool. WWT Ambassadors will help to increase science literacy in the general public while forming intergenerational connections within their communities. Learn more...


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WWT Academic Program

If you have questions or feedback or if you would like more information about collaboration and funding opportunities, contact us.

Conferences and Workshops
  • WWT at IVOA
    Naples, Italy, May 16-19, 2011
  • WWT at Astroviz
    Seattle, WA June 4-5, 2011
  • WWT at dotAstronomy
    Oxford, UK Apr 2 - 6, 2011
  • WWT at AAS 217
    Seattle, WA January 9–13, 2011