I don’t know how familiar you are with our research folks, but they do some really amazing stuff. In recent years, we have seen things like Seadragon, Photosynth, Virtual Earth, and now the Worldwide Telescope. I’ve blogged about the telescope before, but last night it finally went “live”.
The WWT is a free, “Web 2.0 visualization environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope”. It uses Microsoft’s Visual Experience Engine and Microsoft Photosynth technology to stitch together pictures from space into a browsable and searchable model of the universe. The pictures it uses come from a variety of locations including sets from the Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer and more. You can browse around by clicking and dragging your mouse to move around the environment, and use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out (a la Deep Zoom, a.k.a. Seadragon).
In addition to the sophisticated panning and zooming around the universe, there are also a set of very cool guided tours, hosted by nationally and internationally recognized scientists from Harvard, The University of Chicago and more. After you complete the tours, you can use the searching technology to locate items you’re interested in, as well as join interactive communities from Astronomy Magazine, Sky Magazine and Meade 4M. Joining these communities gives you access to special content as well as additional guided tours around the WWT. For the real astronomy buff, you can create your own slide-based tour using the instructions provided in the Authoring section of the WWT web site.