Browsing the sky with WorldWide Telescope (and Google Sky)

I am hooked... to WorldWide Telescope! I love Google Sky and am an avid fan of it, but this new software from Microsoft Research kicks it all up a notch. WWT gives access to images of the sky from various different databases including the DSS optical, infrared and even the WMAP microwave imagery in a really slick, smooth interface. I've spent a good few hours today browsing through the sky, literally, and reading up.

Here is an image of the Orion belt I snapped from WTT. These three stars are part of the Orion constellation and are among the most prominent and easily identifiable stars in the skyscape. In fact, any Maldivian who has ever looked up at the night sky should recognize them. It is one of the first star constellations that I had learnt of and was a source of great wonder when I was a kid.

And here is an image of the planet Mars - the (almost) unmissable bright red dot in the sky. Many Maldivians seem to have a special relationship with Mars - as demonstrated by a habit of falling for the Mars sunrise-from-west doomsday fantasy hoax and the Mars as-large-as-Moon hoax. I think it might be appropriate for all those people to see the planet up close. :-)

It is amazing that through modern technology, merely equipped with free software like the WWT or Google Sky (and its web version), that anyone of us can now zoom on these and other objects in the sky and enjoy a whole new level of awe and appreciation of the world around us...