Microsoft Open Sources WorldWide Telescope
Written by Sue Gee   
Saturday, 04 July 2015

An amazingly rich resource for professional and amateur astronomers has been open sourced by Microsoft and become an independent project as part of the .NET foundation.

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WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Microsoft research project that enables anybody and everybody who wants to do so to explore the universe. It turns your computer into a virtual telescope by bringing together imagery from both ground- and space-based telescopes combining it with 3D navigation, data visualization, and more. This introductory video gives an overview:

 

 

WWT began in 2007 as a Microsoft Research project, with early partners including astronomers and educators from Caltech, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, the University of Chicago and several NASA facilities. It was designed with rich interactivity in mind. Guided Tours, which are especially popular among educators and astronomy enthusiasts, offer scripted paths through the 3D environment, enabling users to view and create media-rich interactive stories about anything from star formation to the discovery of the large-scale structure of the universe.

Is making this project open source just Microsoft's way of dumping it? Perhaps but in the hands of astronomers who want to use it and add to it it stands a good chance of success and in terms of a software research project the groundwork has been done and the foundations have been built.

The blog post announcing the move says:

We believe that extensions and improvements to the software will continuously enhance formal and informal learning and astronomical research. Making the code available will also help ensure that the data, protocols and techniques used are also available for others to inspect, use, adapt and improve upon in their own applications. Ultimately, open sourcing WorldWide Telescope will also allow the wider community to guide and participate future in future development efforts such that it evolves to meet the needs of future users.

It also quotes Alyssa Goodman, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who adds:

“As a long-term collaborator, user and proponent of WorldWide Telescope, releasing it as open source is a natural and significant next step for the project. Educators, students and researchers now have the ability to directly influence and contribute to the future development and potential of this unique tool.”

Three GitHub repositories - for the WWT Windows Client, WWT Web Client and the WWT website - have been established. Now what is needed is for astronomers to get involved and take the project even deeper into the universe.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 July 2015 )