Microsoft makes WorldWide Telescope open source

Sean Cameron

WorldWide Telescope

It is fair to say that, in the past, Microsoft had something of a reputation for being ‘closed’ in its affairs. Since the arrival of Satya Nadella as CEO however, this image has begun to soften significantly.

As part of this new commitment to clarity, Redmond has released WorldWide Telescope to the Open Source community, with the code now available via GitHub. Regarding the move, Alyssa Goodman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics stated,

“As a long-term collaborator, user and proponent of WorldWide Telescope, releasing it as open source is a natural and significant next step for the project. Educators, students and researchers now have the ability to directly influence and contribute to the future development and potential of this unique tool.”

The enthusiasm for this move is also shared by Microsoft Research, which has committed not insignificant resources to the project in the past, stating in an official blog post that,

“We believe that extensions and improvements to the software will continuously enhance formal and informal learning and astronomical research. Making the code available will also help ensure that the data, protocols and techniques used are also available for others to inspect, use, adapt and improve upon in their own applications. Ultimately, open sourcing WorldWide Telescope will also allow the wider community to guide and participate future in future development efforts such that it evolves to meet the needs of future users.”

WorldWide Telescope is a project that has run since 2007, beginning as a Microsoft Research project. Since its inception, it has been downloaded by millions, who use it on a regular basis to help enhance their understanding of the cosmos, with the software even being used to provide scripted tours as a part of public outreach.

Coded in .NET, it is hoped that this move will help to aid the astronomical community in its understanding considerably, and provide a strong base on which to further build future knowledge.

Do you use WorldWide Telescope? Do you support this change? Let us know in the comments below.