Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

WorldWide Telescope – screencast now available

WorldWide Telescope – screencast now available

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Early this morning I downloaded the new WorldWide Telescope application from Microsoft Research.  After exploring the galaxies, I decided this would be a cool screencast to demo the application for those of you that might not otherwise download, install and begin exploring.  Your children are going to love this.  Heck, you might have some fun, too!!!

The screencast is 5 minutes and was recorded at 1280x720.  You should really see the application on my monitor at 1920x1200.  Breathtaking is such an understatement.  You’ll notice when watching the video that the panning isn’t very fluid and that is because I captured at 15 frames per second which is a low FPS for motion.  You’ll also notice I am not capturing the audio of the application.  That’s ok, it’ll just be an extra incentive to go check things out for yourself.  So here’s a quick demo.  Be sure to double click the Silverlight control to go full screen.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Media Player direct link @ http://msinetpub.vo.llnwd.net/d1/keithcombs/wwtelescope.wmv.

Here’s a partial description from the http://www.worldwidetelescope.org website:

The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope—bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world for a seamless exploration of the universe.

Choose from a growing number of guided tours of the sky by astronomers and educators from some of the most famous observatories and planetariums in the country. Feel free at any time to pause the tour, explore on your own (with multiple information sources for objects at your fingertips), and rejoin the tour where you left off. Join Harvard Astronomer Alyssa Goodman on a journey showing how dust in the Milky Way Galaxy condenses into stars and planets. Take a tour with University of Chicago Cosmologist Mike Gladders two billion years into the past to see a gravitational lens bending the light from galaxies allowing you to see billions more years into the past.

WorldWide Telescope is created with the Microsoft® high performance Visual Experience Engine™ and allows seamless panning and zooming around the night sky, planets, and image environments. View the sky from multiple wavelenghts: See the x-ray view of the sky and zoom into bright radiation clouds, and then crossfade into the visible light view and discover the cloud remnants of a supernova explosion from a thousand years ago. Switch to the Hydrogen Alpha view to see the distribution and illumination of massive primordial hydrogen cloud structures lit up by the high energy radiation coming from nearby stars in the Milky Way. These are just two of many different ways to reveal the hidden structures in the universe with the WorldWide Telescope. Seamlessly pan and zoom from aerial views of the Moon and selected planets, as well as see their precise positions in the sky from any location on Earth and any time in the past or future with the Microsoft Visual Experience Engine.

Story continued at http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/whatIs/whatIsWWT.aspx.

Download it @ http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/experienceIt/ExperienceIt.aspx?exp=true.

[UPDATE for 5/14/2008]  A question came my way.  The person wanted to know how this application differs on Windows Vista and Windows XP.  Interesting question.  First, this application is a prime example of the difference that Windows Presentation Foundation in Windows Vista can have on the end result of an application.  The most obvious difference is the liberal use of the Glass effects in the Collection thumbnail bar (top region), and the Context thumbnail bar (bottom region).  On Windows XP you do not get this transparency and you lose some of the visual appeal of the application.  Another visual clue is the Finder Scope tool.  This tool has transparent regions that are not transparent on Windows XP.  A better visual experience on Windows Vista for sure.

The second thing I noticed when I was comparing the two was the speed at which the application pans, images render and the overall stability.  Windows Vista has a more fluid feel on my machine and the pans, zooms and renders appeared quicker.  I haven't run any benchmark timings so I don't have solid proof right now. 

As for stability, I've been running the application since it's release on Windows Vista Ultimate x64 on two different machines and have never crashed it, even under heavy load with the Camtasia screen capturing software running.  When I ran it on the same ThinkPad with Windows XP Pro x86, it faulted at one point during my testing to do a quick check of the visual differences.  That was on Windows XP SP2.  I am installing SP3 right now and will do a shakedown cruise again.

Attachment: http://msinetpub.vo.llnwd.net/d1/keithcombs/wwtelescope.wmv
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  • i have to buy a new computer to view the worldwide telescope. which computer do you recommend? i am not a computer geek. please send response to my email buckcross@sbcglobal.net

  • The application has some pretty high requirements for the computer and it's graphics card.  The specs are at the bottom of the page at http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/experienceIt/ExperienceIt.aspx?exp=true.

    If those specs don't mean anything to you, don't feel bad.  Computers are still too complicated.

    What is your budget and would you want a desktop or laptop?  Any special applications you run?