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WorldWide Telescope

WorldWide Telescope is a free download from Microsoft that offers spectacular views of the celestial wonders of the night sky, provided by the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center, along with other telescopes based on Earth, and in space. Explore the interactive application on your own, or take the narrated guided tours offered by prominent astronomers and educators.

Navigation can be done by using either the menu tabs at the top of the screen, by clicking on the thumbnail panes surrounding the viewing window, or by simply panning and zooming with the mouse or the keyboard. A dialog box appears when the program opens, clearly explaining navigation methods.

The download and installation is pretty straightforward, although some Direct X components must be installed. I downloaded through a third party site, and the first thing required was an update. I assume if the download is completed on the Microsoft site [1], updates will be included in the download. Once the download is complete, a shortcut will be placed on your desktop.

A good place to learn about the Telescope and how best to use it, is the WorldWide Telescope User Guide [2], provided by Microsoft. Click on the Explore button at the top of the screen and select Getting Started (Help). This is a link to the User Guide.

Along with the dazzling views, detailed information about anything on the screen can be found in a variety of ways. One is to right click on the object on the screen for details about the object. I selected Saturn from one of the thumbnail panes and right clicked on it for the information shown below.

Favorite locations can be saved in collections, and text, images, and shapes can be added to selections.

Several of the menus provide other options. The Settings menu is shown below, and the View menu below that.

The main drawback I found was the drain on computer resources. When the Telescope was open, everything else running on the computer was pretty sluggish.

The WorldWide Telescope offers breathtaking panoramas of the universe, and can be used as a learning tool or, if like me, you’re learning resistant, it can be a pretty cool toy.