New program is out of this world

Gone are the days of setting up the tiny tripod telescope on the back porch in hopes of spotting that elusive shooting star.

Gone are the days of setting up the tiny tripod telescope on the back porch in hopes of spotting that elusive shooting star.

Thanks to our tech-saavy neighbors at Microsoft, you can now explore far-reaching galaxies through the World Wide Web.

Microsoft Research launched a new application earlier this week that allows people to explore deep into space through the world’s best lenses.

The WorldWide Telescope generates images from several orbiting and land-bases telescopes and then the Microsoft application allows the user to download them. The application connects the different images together to form a browsable universe, supplemented with information from top astronomical resources. In addition, there are guided tours that put all of the images and information into context.

The free software is available to download from

As a kid, I was just hoping to catch the Big Dipper on a clear night. Now I can check out the Andromeda or Somobrero Galaxy with just a few clicks on my computer.

Next thing you know, I will be able to transport to the Crab Nebula through my laptop. Or maybe — during the dark, damp days of the Northwest — I can download the sun, which can radiate heat and light out of my computer.

In all seriousness, this is ground-breaking stuff. The new-age application has gotten rave reviews from some of the top astrological minds in the country.

So who came up with this Earth-shattering technology? A guy named Curtis Wong, who collected bottles as a kid in Los Angeles to earn money for his first telescope. The Microsoft researcher remembered reading about places like the Milky Way, but he was upset he could never see them between the smog and city lights.

Well, at least his kids won’t have that problem now.

With WorldWide Telescope, even if you sit in a highly polluted city you’ll get a clear view of the Great Orion Nebula.

There’s so much data and information out there about other galaxies — some true, but mostly myth. This program allows scientists to keep pace and provide educational answers to out-of-this-world questions.

It will allow our nation’s young curious minds to explore even deeper into the abyss. It will provide a new educational tool for schools and the community. It will spark more educated dialogue about far-reaching universes and galaxies.

And just like the dinosaurs, that tiny tripod telescope that every kid yearned for 30 years ago, will be become extinct.

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