In an effort to catch up with Google, Microsoft has signed an agreement to make planetary images and other data available to the public. This will all be made possible thanks to the World Wide Telescope. Also known as WWT, the computer software program allows end users to view high detailed satellite imagery, photography, and interactive 3-D models outer space.
Microsoft is getting the bulk of its images from The Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, (MRO) NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, (LRO) as well as ten other earth bound telescopes.
World Wide Telescope is currently offering five main modes. The modes are sky, earth, planets, panoramas, and solar system. The planets mode actually allows users to view 3-D models of celestial bodies like our moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and four of Jupiter’s larger moons; bringing a virtual observatory directly to your desktop or laptop computers.
Microsoft and NASA will be working toward providing tools for real-time weather visualizations and forecasting. The space shuttle launch pad, and other facilities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be available along with high resolution 3-D maps of the moon, sun, stars, Earth, Mars, and more to come.
Real time tracking of the International Space Station (ISS) and space shuttles will be available later this year.
Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California will be responsible for the processing and hosting of more than 100 terabytes (TB) of data. That’s enough to fill over 20,000 DVDs!
NASA intends to deliver a huge amount of upgrades to the WWT project in the Fall of 2009, as surface data of our solar systems become more and more popular, while Earth bound data is losing its excitement.
World Wide Telescope is a free download available to all users at www.worldwidetelescope.org.
The home page provides links to interactive tours that walk you through the software, and show you the ins and outs of navigating your way around the program.
There are also video/audio guided tours made by astrophysicists such as Dr. Alyssa Goodman of the Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. WWT allows users to create their own tours containing music, voice overs, and much more.
A web based version is available for those who don’t want to download and install the software on your local system, but the web client version does not have the full functionality of the software, but it sure is a great way to take a test drive across the universe.