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Heavens above

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We have a telescope that's never been used. As far as I'm concerned, it's too fiddly, and setting it up just so I can see microscopic dots that are supposed to be planets doesn't seem all that worth it. Let's face it, in this age of satellites and CGI, we're spoilt. That's why Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope sounds really cool.

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Using this free download, you can watch swirling galaxies, nebulae and star-bursts on your computer. The web-based tool pulls together images from ground-based telescopes all over the world, and some from space – including the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

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You can locate planets in the night sky, take a guided tour by an experienced astronomer (like University of Chicago cosmologist Mike Gladders who takes you two billion years into the past to see a gravitational lens bending the light from galaxies), and even have a look round Mars, through the eyes of the Mars Rover

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Microsoft has released the WWT as a free resource 'with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe like never before'. I'm inspired. RM

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Images: Microsoft WWT

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