Microsoft is ready to boldly take Web surfers where none has gone before.
The software giant on Monday launched its WorldWide Telescope, a free Web-based program that allows Web surfers to explore galaxies, star systems, and distant planets. The program, which was developed by Microsoft's research arm, weds images from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and others.
"Users can see the X-ray view of the sky, zoom into bright radiation clouds, and then cross-fade into the visible light view and discover the cloud remnants of a supernova explosion from a thousand years ago," Roy Gould, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement. "I believe this new creation from Microsoft will have a profound impact on the way we view the universe."
The program is similar to Google Sky, a mode of Google Earth that offers views of the universe, including high-resolution photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope and background information on discoveries and constellations.
Microsoft said WorldWide Telescope will be made available for free as a tribute to Jim Gray, a Microsoft researcher who disappeared off the California coast while sailing last year.
"The WorldWide Telescope is a powerful tool for science and education that makes it possible for everyone to explore the universe," Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, said in a statement. "Our hope is that it will inspire young people to explore astronomy and science, and help researchers in their quest to better understand the universe."