The WorldWide Telescope in Education

Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope (WWT) provides free access to visualization software that allows anyone to access astronomical images from the most powerful ground- and space-based telescopes. The WWT is being used by educators around the world to teach astronomy, physics, and technology.

The paper, "WorldWide Telescope in Research and Education," describes uses of the WWT in educational and research settings. The VAO is partnering with WWT and the WWT Ambassadors program to bring formal education materials into the classroom.

WorldWide Telescope Sample Tour

Below, we illustrate a sample tour found within Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope, created by an educator from California. This tour was made for other educators, and you may find it useful.

Download the sample tour (.wtt; 5.6 MB)

To view this tour, do the following:

  • Download the tour to a folder you will remember
  • Open WWT
  • Click on the "Explore" at upper left until a menu drops down.
  • Click on "Open" and click on "Tour..."
  • Find your tour wherever you saved it. Click on the tour and select open.
  • The tour is now on your screen. To star the tour, click the play button in the upper left.
  • You may pause the tour at any time by moving the mouse to the top of the screen and clicking the pause button.

VAO workshops for educators

The VAO education team has developed a series of instructional lessons to be used in workshops for educators. These materials were recently used for an educator workshop in Austin, Texas, in January 2012. The workshop showcased standards-based pilot lessons developed by our E/PO team that use WWT's capabilities to teach the STEM subjects using inquiry-based learning. The lessons feature the following WWT capabilities: Sky Mode, Solar System/3D Solar System View, and creating WWT tours.

As an example, we also provide a list of Texas state standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Standards, or "TEKS") that the WWT can be used to teach. The TEKS document has samples of current TEKS for middle school and high school. The standards are separated into three sections: Using WorldWide Telescope to Explore the Solar System, Using WorldWide Telescope to Explore the Universe, and Using WorldWide Telescope to Create Tours.

VAO workshop files

Overview of WorldWide Telescope

This document gives a broad overview of the capabilities of the WWT. If you need to understand how to do the basics (controls, searches, what the menu items mean, etc.), start here:

Exploration of the Solar System

This series of activities leads the user on an exploration of the solar system using the 3-D capabilities of the WWT. Phases of the moon, Galileo's observations of Jupiter, and the causes of Earth's seasons are explored here. NOTE: The WWT 3-D Solar System is accessible only with Windows machines.

Earth's Seasons

For the final activity, "Earth's Seasons," a pre-made tour created by the WWT Ambassadors program is required. You can download that tour here:

WorldWide Telescope: Sky Mode

In this series of activities, the user will learn how to explore the universe beyond the solar system using the WWT Sky Mode. The importance of observing objects across the electromagnetic spectrum is covered, as well as a scavenger hunt designed to introduce many of the wonderful objects astronomers have come to discover in our universe.

The Imagery Data document gives a brief explanation of some of the astronomical background (survey) images available to the user in the WWT Sky Mode.

Creating a Tour in WorldWide Telescope

In this instructional guide, the user learns how to take advantage of a unique capability of the WWT — creating tours. A tour allows an educator or student to create a presentation using the visualization of WWT. The presentation can be focused on any object, telescope, image, etc. that WWT can access. Much like other presentation software, WWT's tours allow the user to overlay text, add audio/music, and include animations. The WWT tour functions much like a video presentation with the added user capability of being able to stop the presentation at any point and explore the universe around the tour where you paused.

NOTE: This instructional guide is best used by those with some familiarity with WWT. Thus, it is advised that users complete the other guides and activities prior to creating a tour.

Adobe Reader

To open any of the PDFs, you will need to install he Adobe Reader plug-in for your browser:

Get Adobe Reader