A lot of hype has surrounded Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope right from the start, especially after we learned that it made Robert Scoble cry. Back in February he took a trip to Microsoft and saw it in action. He was under embargo and couldn’t explain what it was that he saw, but he did say that it was life changing and it was something that had an emotional impact on him. A couple of weeks later when we learned that the WorldWide Telescope was in fact what Scoble was referring to, the pressure was on for Microsoft to deliver. Late last night they did deliver and the WorldWide Telescope has been released into it’s “Spring Beta” and is available for download here.

My very first impression when I started it after installing it was that in some ways, the interface reminds me of Windows Media Player with the drop-down menus at the top. The next thing I noticed was just how complex it is, in a good way. There is so much information available, it’s unbelievable and there are many, many features.

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The best way to get a hang of everything is to just start exploring. Click on the different drop-down menus to see what kinds of things you can click on and just have fun. I haven’t spent more than 20 minutes playing around with everything, but in that time I saw a lot of really amazing images. You can choose which telescopes you’d like to look through, and you can even switch between different light wavelengths. There are also guided tours available, complete with narration.

In the official press release from Microsoft, they quote Bill Gates saying:

“The WorldWide Telescope is a powerful tool for science and education that makes it possible for everyone to explore the universe.

By combining terabytes of incredible imagery and data with easy-to-use software for viewing and moving through all that information, the WorldWide Telescope opens the door to new ways to see and experience the wonders of space. 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.”

I don’t know about you, but I would have loved to have tools like the WorldWide Telescope and Google Sky available while I was in school to learn about the universe. For both kids and adults alike, these tools provide us with a great opportunity to see what’s out there.

Check out Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope… (just note that the download is Windows only)

Thanks for the tip Change and Silviu!