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Ever since WorldWide Telescope made it’s debut at TED a few years back, I’ve been a huge fan. I’m not a budding astronomer but it’s an addictive application and has huge potential as a visual storytelling tool. That’s why I’m keen to see the interactive experiences that will no doubt emerge from the WorldWide Telescope Contest.

If you’re not familiar with it, WorldWide Telescope is a joint project between Microsoft Research, universities and government agencies around the world. It uses hi-res images and data gathered by telescopes both here on Earth and deep in space. Then it combines these images with 3-D navigation. The result is nothing short of amazing as users effortlessly zip, zoom and pan across the universe. And when you hook it up to Kinect, the wow factor goes way, way up. We recently showed it to Jessica Chobot from G4’s Attack of the Show and she was blown away.

Which brings me to the contest - for those who share my sense of discovery, Microsoft Research is sponsoring a contest that will allow you to explore while using WorldWide Telescope software to build interactive, educational tours of the universe.

After downloading Worldwide Telescope, teams of one to four people can choose from a number of themes on which to base their project. From there, they’ll research the topic, flex their creativity and produce jaw-dropping guided tours of the universe.

Entries will be judged on how well WorldWide Telescope is used to illustrate scientific concepts, story development, educational value and overall production value.

The winners in each of five categories will have their work featured in WorldWide Telescope under “Guided Tours” for an entire month. Additionally, entries will be featured on the various WorldWide Telescope-related sites.

All the contest details you could ever ask for can be found here (sorry, it’s US only right now) but if you’re a budding astro-tourist, now is your chance to show the world your skills.