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WorldWide Telescope celebrates new release

January 6, 2014 | By Microsoft blog editor

For the past five years, WorldWide Telescope (WWT) has served as an enriching resource in schools, museums, planetariums, and homes all over the world, inspiring students and astronomy enthusiasts with its detailed views of the heavens and interactive educational content. In celebration of its fifth anniversary, we are pleased to unveil the 5.0 release of WorldWide Telescope at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., this week (January 5–9, 2014).

WorldWide Telescope 5.0 | Fifth Anniversary

With this release, WWT offers powerful new features and includes access to exciting new data sets. The entire rendering system has been rewritten with cutting-edge technologies that give users a high-performance, cinematic experience. A new timeline editor provides tour authors with detailed control of camera motion, settings, and animation, allowing them to create sophisticated, smooth visual sequences with far less work. What’s more, WWT can now import and display highly detailed 3D models, and it even comes preloaded with several, including a high-fidelity representation of the International Space Station.

Renderings of the planets and other bodies in the solar system also look better than ever, thanks to WWT 5.0’s new data sets. For instance, WWT 5.0 includes data about the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. For Mars and Earth, new models that show how sunlight interacts with the planetary atmospheres provide realistic visualization effects, including simulated sunrises and sunsets. In WWT’s 3D mode, you can search for an Earth-based location and instantly fly to it.

Charting the sky has never been easier with WWT 5.0’s collection of new and enhanced overlays that work in both the Sky- and 3D-universe modes. For easier control of these overlays, WWT 5.0 integrates with any MIDI compatible device. Now you can map a slider to fade in the new Hevelius constellation set—or show a galactic grid on the Milky Way with a touch of a button. This customization extends to the Xbox 360 Support and Custom buttons in the View tab.

Another new feature, which has captured the attention of some of the world’s premiere planetariums, enables full-dome tour authoring for seamless displays on complex single- or multi-projector domes. Hundreds of thousands of people have experienced detailed displays of the universe, powered by WorldWide Telescope, at the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, as well as at other venues around the world. Moreover, the educational value of WWT extends well beyond the planetarium. The WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors program supports formal educational programs that use WWT to teach students about the seasons, the planets, and the sky.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) debut of WorldWide Telescope 5.0 will include demos and informal talks for professional astronomers on the exhibit floor; in addition, several researchers and educators are giving lectures on WWT during the conference. Microsoft is a sponsor of the AAS Hack Day on January 9, featuring support and participation by WWT team members.

You can learn more about WorldWide Telescope and download it for free at WorldWide Telescope.

Jonathan Fay, Principal Software Architect, Microsoft Research Connections

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