No less than two years have passed since Microsoft introduced a new initiative designed to democratize access to astronomical data. It was on May 12th, 2008, that the WorldWide Telescope was released, and now the project developed by Microsoft Research is entering its second year of life. The two-year anniversary would have gone by unnoticed, if it weren’t for a quick reminder offered by Microsoft’s Dan Fay, who recalled some of the major steps in the evolution of the WorldWide Telescope.
When it was initially introduced, the WWT allowed customers running Windows and Mac OS X to download a small client and access a “universe” of information, essentially imagery collected from top ground- and space-based telescopes worldwide. But the project is designed to deliver additional data such as survey studies. Furthermore, the content shared free of charge allows for a deeper perspective than a traditional telescope would ever make possible, including imagery taken at various wavelengths: gamma, X-ray, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared and radio.
Almost a year after its launch, Microsoft Research made it possible for WorldWide Telescope imagery to be accessed via the browser alone, through the introduction of the Silverlight-based WorldWide Telescope Web Client. Set up to deliver a subset of the features from the WorldWide Telescope Windows Client, the Web Client takes advantage of browsers that support Silverlight 3.0.
In March 2010, Microsoft expanded the content available via Bing Maps, by integrating WorldWide Telescope imagery into its mapping, location and search platform. “Previewed at the Ted 2010 Conference, WorldWide Telescope for Bing Maps is now available. Through integration with Bing Maps Street View you can see street-side panoramas, then look up and see what is in the sky above you. You can easily scroll backward and forward through time to finally answer the nagging question 'What was that I saw in the sky last night?'. To start, click on the title above and select "Map Apps" on the bottom of the screen, then select WorldWide Telescope,” Microsoft stated.