So everyone is buzzing over the World Wide Telescope, a project from Microsoft that connects telescope across the world and in space, and wraps them up into a very slick interface that lets you tour the Universe.
Roy Gould, an educator at Harvard, gave a presentation about the WWT at TED, the mega-unber-geek conference held in California every year. Here's the video.
This does look very cool. It's much like Google Sky, but from Microsoft's direction. Google tends to build software that allows people to add to it, while Microsoft tends to produce finished products. Both have their advantages, though in this case it's hard to see which will go where. Right now there isn't a huge amount of info out on the WWT; everyone's talking about how cool it is, but at the moment we're light on specifics. They should come out very soon, by the spring.
Years ago, when I was still in California, there was a small astronomical space observatory mission being proposed to NASA, and my group was the head of the education and outreach part of the proposal. One of our ideas was to include the mission data into a collective database of observatory observations called the National Virtual Observatory. Microsoft genius Jim Gray (the man who, sadly, is presumed lost in his boat of the coast of California last year) was involved with that, and I see his name attached to the WWT as well. I presume there is some connection, so I'm naturally very curious about this project.
As I learn more I'll be sure to write about it (well, whatever they let me write :-) ).