In February, Robert Scoble wrote that Microsoft researchers showed him something that made him cry. At the time, he couldn't write about it, but it turned out to be this project, the Microsoft WorldWide Telescope.“The WorldWide Telescope is a powerful tool for science and education that makes it possible for everyone to explore the universe,” said Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft. “By combining terabytes of incredible imagery and data with easy-to-use software for viewing and moving through all that information, the WorldWide Telescope opens the door to new ways to see and experience the wonders of space. Our hope is that it will inspire young people to explore astronomy and science, and help researchers in their quest to better understand the universe.”
The application itself is a blend of software and Web 2.0 services created with the Microsoft high-performance Visual Experience Engine, which allows seamless panning and zooming around the heavens with rich image environments. WorldWide Telescope stitches together terabytes of high-resolution images of celestial bodies and displays them in a way that relates to their actual position in the sky. People can freely browse through the solar system, galaxy and beyond, or take advantage of a growing number of guided tours of the sky hosted by astronomers and educators at major universities and planetariums.
I have to admit, it looks really cool, but it seems to be a resource hog - and it's pre-release. You can download the application from Microsoft's official WWT website