Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is WorldWide Telescope?
A. The WorldWide Telescope is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe. WorldWide Telescope, created with Microsoft’s high-performance Visual Experience Engine, enables seamless panning and zooming across the night sky blending terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a media-rich, immersive experience. The WorldWide Telescope experience scales from a web browser all the way to multi-channel full dome in some of the worlds most advanced planetariums.
Q. What is the WorldWide Telescope Web Client?
A. The WorldWide Telescope Web Client uses HTML5 to provide a rich browser-based version of WorldWide Telescope that that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe from within a web browser. This version contains a subset of the features that the Windows Client offers. For details on the differences between the two versions, click here
Q. What are some of the most compelling features of WorldWide Telescope?
A. WorldWide Telescope is an observatory on your desktop, allowing you to see the sky in a way you have never seen it before through individual exploration; multi-wavelength views; stars and planets within context to each other; the ability to zoom in and out; and the capability to create, search and view guided tours of the universe. You can view the entire solar system in 3-D with light and shadows created from the sun, and can explore the Earth and Mars in incredible detail. You also can watch planets orbit around the sun, and moons orbit around planets. The Visual Experience Engine delivers seamless panning and zooming around the night sky, now enhanced with the TeraPixel sky image that provides an unmatched panorama of the heavens. WorldWide Telescope delivers seamless integration of scientifically relevant information, including multi-wavelength, multiple-telescope distributed image and data sets, and one-click contextual access to distributed Web information and data sources. From http://www.worldwidetelescope.org, you can easily share videos of the tours with friends by e-mailing them a link to your favorite tours to view on a PC or Mac.
Q. What is unique about the Terapixel sky image?
A. The Terapixel sky image is a seamless, high-resolution panorama of the night sky. This first of a kind feature provides the largest and highest-quality visual image of the sky and was created from data provided by the Digitized Sky Survey, a collection of thousands of images taken over period of 50 years by two ground-based survey telescopes. When combined and processed, the TeraPixel image is a complete, spherical, panoramic rendering of the night skies that, if displayed at full size, would require 50,000 high-definition televisions to view. Using the Project Trident Workflow Workbench and the DryadLINQ interface for .NET, Microsoft Researchers combined thousands of images and systematically removed differences in exposure, brightness, noise floor, and color saturation, and they eliminated the “tiling effect” of sharp-edged boundaries between discrete telescopic photographs.
Q. What is the WWT | Mars User Experience and what are the new features involved with the latest version of the WorldWide Telescope?
A. The WWT | Mars user experience is the latest version of the WorldWide Telescope that includes an intricate Mars environment map with new imagery data that allows for an up close and personal encounter with the Red Planet. These new high quality, high-resolution images will provide scientists with the ability to navigate through space dynamically to make their own discoveries. Provided through an on-going collaborative relationship with NASA, the WWT | Mars experience includes the most complete pole-to-pole coverage of Mars images available allowing WorldWide Telescope users to experience Mars in 3-D. Read more…
Q. What is the 2009 NASA Space Act Agreement?
A. In March of 2009, NASA and Microsoft announced plans to make planetary images and data available via the Internet under a Space Act Agreement. Through this project, NASA and Microsoft jointly developed the technology and infrastructure necessary to make the most interesting NASA content — including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon — explorable on WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft’s online virtual telescope for exploring the universe. Under the joint agreement, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., will process and host more than 100 terabytes, or 20,000 DVDs of data – featuring high-resolution scientific imagery and data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Launched in August 2005, MRO has been examining Mars with a high-resolution camera and five other instruments since 2006 and has returned more data than all other Mars missions combined.
Q. Does WorldWide Telescope provide real-time data?
A. WorldWide Telescope shows you where items are in space today but all the images are from different ground- and space-based telescopes, and that content is from varying times in the past.
Q. What are the system requirements for running WorldWide Telescope?
WorldWide Telescope minimum system requirements (For PC):
- Microsoft® XP SP2 (minimum), Windows® Vista®, or Windows® 7 (recommended)
- PC with Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 2 gigahertz (GHz) or faster, recommended
- 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM; 2 GB RAM recommended
- 3D accelerated card with 128 megabytes (MB) RAM; discrete graphics card with dedicated 256-MB VRAM recommended for higher performance
- 1 GB of available hard disk space; 10 GB recommended for off-line features and higher performance browsing
- XGA (1024 x 768) or higher resolution monitor
- Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing and scrolling device
- Microsoft® DirectX® version 9.0c and .NET Framework 2.0
- Required for some features; Internet connection at 56 Kbps or higher through either an Internet service provider (ISP) or a network. Internet access might require a separate fee to an ISP; local or long-distance telephone charges might also apply
Q. Is WorldWide Telescope available in other languages?
A. Yes, WorldWide Telescope offers fully-localized user-interfaces for Simplified Chinese, German, Russian, Hindi, Spanish and other language versions of the Windows Client. To change your language, install the Windows Client, then choose the “Select Your Language” option from the Settings menu.
Q. What is the Microsoft Visual Experience Engine?
A. The Microsoft Visual Experience Engine is the technology that enables seamless panning and zooming across the night sky, blending terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a media-rich, immersive experience.
Q. Who are some of your partners with WorldWide Telescope?
A. We are working with a variety of partners in the academic, educational and scientific communities to make WorldWide Telescope a success. For details please see http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/worldwidetelescope/docs/WorldWideTelescopePartnersCommunity.pdf.
Q. What does WorldWide Telescope cost?
A. Microsoft Research is dedicating WorldWide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray and is releasing WorldWide Telescope as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe as never before.
Q.When did Microsoft first starting looking at the sky?
A. For 19 years, Microsoft has invested, and will continue to invest, in long-term, broad-based research through Microsoft Research. WorldWide Telescope is built on work that started with Jim Gray’s work on SkyServer and his contributions to Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
Q. Is this an extension of Jim Gray’s work?
A. Yes. Jim Gray spent his life perfecting database and transaction processing systems, and he was committed to using technology to advance education. His seminal work on the SkyServer typified his dedication to making scientific information and exploration available to specialists and laypeople alike, and WWT is an ongoing extension of this work.