New Virtual Telescope Offers Awesome Views

By JR Raphael
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

There’s a new way to access far away galaxies right from your home computer.

Microsoft has just unveiled its long-awaited WorldWide Telescope utility. The program lets you check out views from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey — some of the same images actual NASA scientists use for their own explorations.

At a first glance, you might think you’re just inside another random computer-generated world. But once you realize that this is the real deal and that you’re looking at the actual universe, these views will blow you away. You can check out the stars in such clarity that you’ll feel as if you were in space yourself.

Microsoft hopes the tool will become an important part of future education that’ll inspire students and teachers alike. And so far, it’s getting rave reviews.

“Users can see the X-ray view of the sky, zoom into bright radiation clouds, and then cross-fade into the visible light view and discover the cloud remnants of a supernova explosion from a thousand years ago,” explained Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics researcher Roy Gould.

“I believe this new creation from Microsoft will have a profound impact on the way we view the universe.”

The software isn’t for the faintly resourced. It requires a full gig of hard drive space, with a recommended 10 gigs for optimal usage. Microsoft also recommends two gigs of RAM for the best viewing experience, and you have to have .NET Framework 2.0 or later and DirectX 9.0 or later to play.

WorldWide Telescope provides some astonishing images, no doubt. For me, though, Google’s easy-to-use, download-free Google Sky does the same trick with a lot less hassle. One click, a few seconds load time, and you’re getting pretty impressive sights from worlds far, far away. This space cowboy gives Microsoft a nice nod but ultimately tips his hat to the G-team once again.

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