From the New York Times:
The WorldWide Telescope is the culmination of years of work by researchers at Microsoft, and the Web site and free downloadable software are available starting on Tuesday, at www.WorldWideTelescope.org.
There are many online astronomy sites, but astronomers say the Microsoft entry sets a new standard in three-dimensional representation of vast amounts data plucked from space telescopes, the ease of navigation, the visual experience and features like guided tours narrated by experts.
“Exploring the virtual universe is incredibly smooth and seamless like a top-of-the-line computer game, but also the science is correct,” said Alexander Szalay, a professor of astronomy and physics at Johns Hopkins. “No sacrifices have been made. It just feels as if you are in it.”
The WorldWide Telescope project spans astronomy, education and computing. Educators hope its rich images, animation and design for self-navigation will help entice computer-gaming young people into astronomy and science in general. The space service, astronomers say, could also become valuable in scientific discovery, especially with a professional version being developed with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.