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WorldWide Telescope Powers “Cosmic Wonder” at Adler Planetarium

May 24, 2013 | Posted by Microsoft Research Blog

Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IllinoisMicrosoft Research’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT) has brought spectacular images and engaging, informative tours of the night sky to countless personal computers—including, we hope, yours. But WorldWide Telescope also offers a powerful tool for planetariums, large and small, providing two things they never had before: views of the sky based on real imagery, and a three-dimensional perspective.

Nowhere has the link between WWT and planetariums been stronger and more mutually beneficial than with the famed Adler Planetarium on Chicago’s lakefront. The researchers at the Adler’s Space Visualization Lab—particularly Mark SubbaRao and Doug Roberts—have been testing and pushing the limits of WWT for five years now. The Adler, which has the highest resolution digital dome in the United States, has built many different exhibits using WWT, and encouraged the WWT team to create a full-dome display with 3-D stereo.

Image of Great Nebula in Orion from the Hubble Space Telescope displayed on the Adler Planetarium dome
Image of Great Nebula in Orion from the Hubble Space Telescope displayed on the
Adler Planetarium dome 

Now the folks at the Adler have united the features of their planetarium with the imagery and storytelling capabilities of WWT to create “Cosmic Wonder,” arguably one of the most engaging and breathtaking planetarium shows ever. WWT projects images on the planetarium’s state-of-the-art, 20-projector and 81-mega-pixel dome, to bring the Crab Nebula descending toward viewers and show what happens when a star explodes. The live presentation then zooms the audience into the constellation of Orion to witness the birth of stars and takes viewers to a patch of the night sky, where Hubble images display more than 5,500 galaxies. This exciting show is more than just spectacle, it’s an immersive experience that invites the audience to ask questions and learn from experts—much as WWT on your PC does with its guided tours.

Audience at Adler Planetarium views an infrared image revealing a star formation in Carina With “Cosmic Wonder,” the Adler has done a remarkable job of showing the human “power to wonder” and how that leads us to seek answers and make amazing discoveries. We are very excited to have Bing be the presenting sponsor for the show, as Bing is a powerful tool that facilitates the seeking of answers. I had the privilege of introducing the “Cosmic Wonder” shows during the launch on May 17. I could not have been prouder of how WWT and our partners at the Adler have created an incredibly rich, unbelievably engaging, and thoroughly educational experience.

If you’re in Chicago this summer, I urge you to take in this amazing show. But even if your travels don’t include the Windy City, you can experience the wonders of the universe through your PC by downloading the WorldWide Telescope.

Dan Fay, Director of Earth, Energy, and Environment; Microsoft Research Connections

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