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Software worth checking out: Microsoft WorldWide Telescope Penumbra Beta

For those looking for a new piece of software to play with, check out Microsoft’s own WorldWide Telescope. Its not an alternative to Google Earth, rather, its an interesting way to explore and learn about Astronomy.

So what is it? “The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the world’s best ground, and space-based telescopes for the exploration of the universe,” Microsoft describes.

In essence, the WorldWide Telescope blends terabytes of images, information, and stories from multiple sources into a seamless, immersive, rich media experience delivered over the internet for those interested in Astronomy. As Microsoft puts it, “Students of all ages will feel empowered to explore and understand the cosmos using WorldWide Telescope’s simple and powerful user interface.”

Microsoft designed this software with two goals in mind. First, to have something that aggregates scientific date from major telescopes, observatories, and institutions. Secondly, Microsoft hopes to stimulate interest in science among younger generations by proving a basic means of teaching Astronomy, scientific discovery, and computational science.

The WorldWide Telescope is not in real time, rather it shows different images from ground and space based telescopes from varying times in the past.

The application itself is pretty light, weighing in at about 62MB. Once installed, you can download further content and explore the universe via narrated guided tours given by astronomers and educators. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments below.

You can check out the Microsoft WorldWide Telescope or download it here.

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