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Microsoft open sources WorldWide Telescope

July 2, 2015 | Posted by Microsoft Research Blog

We are incredibly pleased to announce that the WorldWide Telescope is now open source under the MIT license and has become an independent project as part of the .NET Foundation.

WorldWide Telescope began in 2007 as a Microsoft Research project, with early partners including astronomers and educators from Caltech, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, the University of Chicago and several NASA facilities. Over the past eight years, millions of people have downloaded and used WorldWide Telescope, coming to rely on its unified astronomical image and data environment for exploratory research, teaching and public outreach.

WorldWide Telescope was designed with rich interactivity in mind. Guided Tours, which are especially popular among educators and astronomy enthusiasts, offer scripted paths through the 3D environment, enabling users to view and create media-rich interactive stories about anything from star formation to the discovery of the large-scale structure of the universe.

Microsoft open sources WorldWide Telescope

This year, we decided to make the WorldWide Telescope available under an open source license to allow any individual or organization to adapt and extend the functionality to meet any research or educational need.

We believe that extensions and improvements to the software will continuously enhance formal and informal learning and astronomical research. Making the code available will also help ensure that the data, protocols and techniques used are also available for others to inspect, use, adapt and improve upon in their own applications. Ultimately, open sourcing WorldWide Telescope will also allow the wider community to guide and participate future in future development efforts such that it evolves to meet the needs of future users.

“As a long-term collaborator, user and proponent of WorldWide Telescope, releasing it as open source is a natural and significant next step for the project. Educators, students and researchers now have the ability to directly influence and contribute to the future development and potential of this unique tool.”

Alyssa Goodman, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

WorldWide Telescope is written in .NET and the code is available now at This release brings a deep and complex open source .NET project to the astronomical community, while representing a substantial extension of the projects within the .NET Foundation.

Many, many people dedicated themselves to making this release happen—too many to list here, but to all those who helped, we thank you!

We encourage you to follow future conversations and developments regarding WorldWide Telescope on Twitter and Facebook.

Jonathan Fay, Principal Software Development Engineer, Microsoft Research
Michael Zyskowski, Engineer Manager, Microsoft Research
Jim Pinkelman, Senior Director, Microsoft Research

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