WorldWide Telescope: Works great on a Mac (if you have Windows)

Robert Palmer
R. Palmer|05.19.08

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WorldWide Telescope: Works great on a Mac (if you have Windows)

You might have heard that Microsoft Research has released WorldWide Telescope (WWT), it's software to devour the universe whole provide a fun way to browse the planets and stars.

The BBC mentioned that you can run WWT on your Mac ... so long as you have Windows on your Mac. Sigh. VMWare helpfully gave the system a try, though, and found it worked great (and even posted a video about it.)

I fired up the ol' Boot Camp and saw it wasn't bad. It boasts high-resolution photography of many parts of the sky, and is reasonably easy to use (for a Microsoft product). There were some weird, annoying flicker problems, but I'll chalk that up to the fact that it's beta software on a MacBook with a pokey graphics card.

As an amateur astronomer with his own 10-inch Dob (that's right, ladies), I tend to use astronomy software less as a casual browsing tool, but more to find interesting things in the sky on a particular night. And for that, WWT ain't great. You won't find any satellites (like Iridium flares) in WWT. Worst of all -- there's no horizon I could easily find. (Found it, thanks to commenter dh!) So good luck trying to find that fuzzy thing next to the blue thing when it's under your feet.

The Mac, however, is blessed with a great variety of native astronomy tools, most of which are free. Stellarium is excellent, free planetarium software. It's worth noting that Google Earth has a spiffy sky tool built-in, too. Last but not least, Starry Night Pro is the king of all astronomy software (and my favorite), but is a little spendy at $150.

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