updated 09:10 am EDT, Tue May 13, 2008
MS WorldWide Telescope
Microsoft today kicked off the public beta of WorldWide Telescope, a downloadable app built for browsing the viewable universe. The software uses an Internet database to provide high-detail images of nebulas and other astronomical objects without requiring a large download; a unique approach stitches together images to create a seemingly unified view that uses terabytes' worth of data. The system is also unique in providing the views from specific telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, and allowing users to switch between viewing X-rays and observable light.
Views are also available from the Opportunity and Spirit Mars rovers, Microsoft adds.
The software is available for free and offers tours guided by expert astronomers, making WorldWide Telescope useful for students as well as those who prefer guidance rather than exploring on their own. Microsoft uses relatively advanced 3D for the device and demands a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or better, 1GB of memory, and a dedicated video chipset with at least 128MB of memory.
In an unusual claim, however, Microsoft also suggests the app supports Macs but only through Boot Camp, with Windows still necessary for the software. The Redmond, Washington-based company also elevates specs and suggests the Apple computers require a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo as well as a higher resolution (1440x900 versus 1024x768) display. The company additionally is confused regarding specifications and claims WorldWide Telescope is supported by Mac OS X 10.2 systems despite the old platform's lack of support for Intel-based Macs and Boot Camp; it also claims a requirement for an HFS+ file system, which is unsupported by Windows.
Microsoft has been contacted regarding the discrepancy, but has yet to address the concerns.