Last night — the third Thursday of the month — was another Observatory Night at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. It was way too cold and icy on the roof to do observing, but the lecture was very interesting. The CfA's Alyssa Goodman talked about her involvement with the WorldWide Telescope (WWT), Microsoft's impressive answer to the "virtual observatory."

Hubble Collection

Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope is coming to a Web browser near you.


An update of WWT was released several weeks ago, but the most notable new feature is a 3-D rendition of the solar system.

People have complained that WWT is "Windows only." This is true, but it's not "PC only" — you can run it on an Intel-based Mac that has Windows installed. A more significant revelation from last night was Goodman's passing mention that WWT developers are working on a Web-browser-based version of the software. She showed a slide (are PowerPoint presentation images still called "slides"?) showing WWT running in Apple's Safari browser — conveniently missing the URL to the site. The presentation was webcast live, and a streaming version will be available in a couple of weeks from the Observatory Night Video Archive.

That means that soon everyone will be able to enjoy the software, including Mac and Linux users. So stay tuned!

On other matters, word comes from a friend that on last night's very special episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (a show I never watch), a murder was solved using the "astro forensics" techniques that you've read about in Sky & Telescope — specifically like those performed by Dennis di Cicco and others by Donald Olson and his teams of enthusiasts.

Looks like you can watch the show online over at CBS's website and probably other venues. I think I can catch it from On Demand from my cable company. Perhaps I'll watch it this weekend, after Battlestar Galactica. (Regarding the latter, if you're recording the show, it will run an hour and 3 minutes. Adjust accordingly.)

And, finally, since it's Friday, here's a bit of astro-fun from earlier in the week. Everyone, even Stephen Colbert, is riding high now that that our galaxy isn't second class to Andromeda.




Image of Tyson


January 16, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Totally off topic of the article, but I'm not sure how to search for astronomical events. Do you know of any metorites passing earth around December 31st? I was wondering if a metorite shower could have killed all of those birds?

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