On Wednesday, Microsoft Research announced a new product called WorldWide Telescope (let's call it WWT). Imagine exploring images from the best telescopes across the globe and in space, calling up related data, stories and statistics on objects that you want to know more about. Zoom in until a galaxy fills up your screen in high resolution or create a tour that takes you through the Big Dipper. Seamlessly pan across the sky and search for objects you would never see in a city or see constellations that you can't see from your hemisphere. And do it all for free :)

I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on WWT when it gets released later this Spring. I've always loved looking up at the stars but haven't been able to because I live in such a light-polluted city. Admittedly it won't be like sitting on our deck at my dad's home back in Canada where we can take the whole night sky in. But I will be able to explore the sky like I never could have before. I'll never be able to get to the big telescopes of the world or be able to afford running all over just to look at the sky. But now I will be able to look at the images they produce. And all the data that's available about them. And the stories of the people who've researched them. And so will you. And elementary and high schools, colleges and universities around the world. It's incredible!

Today, a video of the announcement of WWT was released with a small preview of the imagery it contains. Visit the WorldWide Telescope site for more information about the project and some videos from those who've seen it or will be impacted by it. As Curtis Wong mentions in the video, the project is an extension of Jim Gray's work and it is dedicated to him. Jim went missing January 28th, 2007 and worked for Microsoft Research.

Be sure to try out WWT when it's released.