Space: Microsoft’s final frontier

14 May 2008

The armchair observer has come one step closer to the Hubble Space telescope with the release of the WorldWide Telescope by Microsoft Research, a space exploration programme that creates a virtual night sky by stitching together high-resolution pictures of the universe taken both from earth and space.

WorldWide Telescope, which is available for download from contains terabytes of data and images that will make it ideal as an educational tool because it uses Microsoft’s Visual Experience Engine, which allows for seamless scanning and zooming of the night sky.

Although high-resolution pictures of the universe are already available from various resources around the web, what makes this different is that the user can choose which telescope to view, the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory Centre amongst others, as well as choose the view from the past, present and future.

“Users can see the X-ray view of the sky, zoom into bright radiation clouds, and then cross-fade into the visible light view and discover the cloud remnants of a supernova explosion from a thousand years ago,” said Roy Gould, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

“I believe this new creation from Microsoft will have a profound impact on the way we view the universe.”

The WorldWide Telescope is free to download and is the result of 16 years of research at Microsoft.

By Marie Boran