Harvard scientists are creating a group of interstellar "ambassadors" who are helping to explain the universe in school classrooms through a web-based program that lets students soar through space to view planets, stars, and the gassy clouds where the latter are born.
The Worldwide Telescope Ambassadors Program is the brainchild of astronomy Professor Alyssa Goodman, who has been working with Microsoft programmers for several years on their Internet-based Worldwide Telescope, a free program. Goodman has worked with its creator, Curtis Wong, at Microsoft Research, suggesting updates and changes that have added functionality useful to researchers.
Through the main interface, users can zoom "through" the universe to explore. A click of the mouse will call up links to research databases, putting the current knowledge about a particular stellar body or region at the user’s fingertips. For more-basic users, there are also a series of "tours" — guided introductions to specific astronomy topics — to get them started.