New Bing Maps Application: WorldWide Telescope

wwt_0 About 2 years ago, I posted the announcement of Microsoft Research’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT) – a project to map out the stars, planets, solar systems and anything not on the Earth (see WorldWide Telescope Now Available!). That was some time ago and WorldWide Telescope has expanded its interfaces from a client based application, to a sharing of backyard astronomy information to a Silverlight web-based implementation to now a Bing Maps application. I knew there was a reason that I was blogging about WWT way back when and finally my tag cloud rings true with all those hot celestial bodies overlaying on Bing Maps.

wwt_1 The WorldWide Telescope application allows you to view most of the features available in the Silverlight client right in Bing Maps. Yes, the WWT provides real time information about how the space is moving over the Earth. This provides context for where celestial entities are in real time if you were to look up at the night sky. Upon launching the WWT Bing Maps App, you may get so excited and just want to see SOMETHING, so just jump right in with stars. You can click the “Start Here” button which enables a telescope mouse pointer which you drag somewhere onto the map. Once you drop it on the map the map will fade to the constellations and stars overhead. You can navigate the universe the same way you do Bing Maps by grabbing an area and dragging the map around (now a universe map). Cool! But, now what. Click the question mark icon near the bottom of the map. This enables a control that you can drag over specific entities on the universe map to identify what they are. You can discover known objects in space…the final frontier. To turn off the information view, just click the question mark icon again.

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Now, if you want the SUPER COOL effect you saw Blaise Arcas y Aguera demonstrate at TED you can just click on one of the collections which zips you down to Earth and changes the map style to Streetside (where available). Once you’re on the ground, just look up! Sweeeeeet.

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The application is pulling tons of collections from the Worldwide Telescope Community including Constellations, Solar System, All-Sky Surveys, Spitzer Studies, Chandra Studies, Hubble Studies, Astrophotography, Radio Studies, NOAO Studies, Gemini Studies, Messier Catalog, Planets/Moons, Earth (Bing!), Panoramas, and Tours. Each of these selections has a deep rich collection of information within. For example, when you click “Constellations” a set of constellations will load. Select a constellation from the list and you’ll see an overview of the constellation. Select “Fly to” to load the constellation. If you’re in Streetside, just look up by grabbing the map and pull down the map to see the constellation – such as the beautiful Aries shown above.

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So, go explore the universe and learn what’s been going on over your head for millions of years without you ever even knowing about it. If you’re really hard core, go to the WorldWide Telescope site and start contributing information to the project. The WorldWide Telescope team from Microsoft Research still has some BIG plans for their applications and the Bing Maps application is but a taste of the real deal.

CP – Follow me on Twitter @ChrisPendleton

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