So today is the day I've been waiting for Microsoft officially announced WorldWide Telescope.
Sadly it isn't available yet for general download, but it will be sometime during the Spring.
WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space telescopes in the world for a seamless, guided exploration 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.
This is what Dr. Roy Gould had to say about it:
The WorldWide Telescope takes the best images from the greatest telescopes on Earth ... and in space ... and assembles them into a seamless, holistic view of the universe. This new resource will change the way we do astronomy ... the way we teach astronomy ... and, most importantly, I think it's going to change the way we see ourselves in the universe.
Although obviously stunning are the pictures we can get nowadays, they lack context because there is no way to see what is outside the edges of the image. I still remember the first time I saw a really high resolution image of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, now we've all see images of the Horsehead Nebula and the Great Orion Nebula, but to see a huge portion of the sky in really high resolution and look at the structure to see that the bright nebulae we were used to seeing were simply areas of a much larger nebula condensing was incredible. This software does this for the whole sky, and not only in visible but other wavelengths too.