Longtime readers will know I am a huge fan of WorldWide Telescope. To put it mildly, WorldWide Telescope is the best astronomy program ever. If I had this when I was a kid I would never turn it off, it would autostart with the computer and I would be constantly looking at everything.
Anyway as you may recall a Silverlight based web version of WorldWide Telescope was released last year. It wasn't as well featured as the Windows client, nor anywhere near as fast. But it covered the basics. Essentially that's what has been intergrated into the new Bing Maps.
What's really cool is if you're currently in Streetside view, turn on the WorldWide Telescope application, and look up, you see stars! The screenshots in this post are of me stood, virtually of course, along University Drive in Phoenix. You can scroll through time as well to see the stars as they would appear above that location.
You can zoom in too. Below showing the Andromeda galaxy, you can access all the additional images as well, I could view it in infra-red with just a click of a mouse using images from the Spitzer space telescope for example.
If you're not in Streetside view, it still works, you just lose the perspective of having the ground under your feet, being able to see the complete sky instead without it being blocked out by the Earth.
All in all, good stuff. The only thing I can really complain about is performance, unlike the Windows client, it doesn't have anywhere near the same sort of silky-smooth frame rate. So yes I would still recommend the Windows client. But its nice having the option in the new Bing Maps too.
Here's a video of it in action demonstrated by Blaise Aguera y Arcas at TED this year in addition to some of the other improvements in the new Bing Maps:
A new build of WorldWide Telescope has gone up, for both Windows and Silverlight platforms.
Grab it from here.
Cosmos view has been re-worked and looks a lot better, the Solar System view has had a view changes, eclipes now work on other planets, the Sun looks a bit better from a distance, although the planets all seem to still be spheres /facepalm I was really hoping that would get sorted in this release. There's also a bunch of new resources for tour creators (woo I had to source my own background music in the past).
The WorldWide Telescope team has released a web client for WorldWide Telescope, written in Silverlight and currently in alpha but from my testing works quite well.
It doesn't support the 3D solar system view yet, but pretty much everything else is in there, including tours. Performance isn't as good compared to the full Windows client which makes use of 3D hardware acceleration. Nevertheless it is pretty useable, and the servers at the moment don't seem to be under as much load as they were when the full client was released last year. As someone who is in the process of making a couple of tours I can't grumble at the increased install base that having a web client will bring.
Check it out at worldwidetelescope.org/webclient.
A new feature that WorldWide Telescope implemented in a recent release was the Cosmos view.
This takes data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey which is in the process of mapping the distance to a million or so galaxies. You've probably seen images like this one:
Which are taken from the SDSS and similar surveys. Now however you can view the data in 3D in WorldWide Telescope.
No these images don't do it justice. Instead open up WWT go down in the bottom-left corner of WWT and tell it to look at the Solar System, then click View at the top, and check the Cosmos box, if you haven't done this before you'll get a message recommending that you have at least 256MB of video memory else performance will suffer. Once enabled just keep zooming out from the Solar System.
Wizzing around the large scale super-structure of the universe = epic win. The only trouble now is I can't wait until the whole sky is mapped, out to say 10 billion light years, I've got a feeling I'll be waiting a while for that.
Have just been throwing my must-have applications onto my Windows 7 system and came across a nice surprise. There's a new build of WorldWide Telescope available. Here's the official blurb for those who haven't already tried it out:
Immerse yourself in a seamless beautiful environment.
WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky
I notice the website has had a bit of an overhaul, that there's several new sky surveys available, that it now has a 3D fly-around mode for viewing the Solar System and the Milky Way, similar to Celestia, and according to the little tip of the day box that popped up it now supports Xbox 360 controllers, but as it's gone 4 in the morning I'll have to wait until tomorrow and see if its got better support for 120 DPI systems and see if I can see anything else that's new.