Pushing the possibilities of Web 2.0 to infinity and beyond, Microsoft Research has launched WWT, a visualisation software environment that changes your computer into a virtual telescope.

In essence, what the WorldWide Telescope allows you to do is explore space through different views and perspectives, while learning about various aspects of the night sky at the same time.

Space tours

The site also offers free guided tours by astronomers, or you can go off and explore ‘virtual’ space on your own, via the seamless panning and zooming options – providing your computer is up to it.

Microsoft is claiming to have terabytes of digitised information that makes up its virtual space; this has been taken from various sources over the internet.

The software is based on 16 years of work begun by the late computer scientist Jim Gray who was an integral part of Microsoft Research, right up until his death in January 2007. The WorldWide Telescope is dedicated to him.

Google Earth competitor

The WorldWide Telescope looks likely to be a direct competitor to Google Earth’s Sky application. At first glance it seems to have better imagery and interaction than Google’s star-gazer, but only time will tell if it becomes just as popular.