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Microsoft and NASA Bring Mars Down to Earth Through the WorldWide Telescope

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Η Microsoft Research και η NASA συνεργάζονται ακόμα μία φορά και προσφέρουν την εφαρμογή WorldWide Telescope, με την οποία μπορείτε να εξερευνήσετε τον πλανήτη Άρη είτε μέσω φωτογραφιών είτε παρακολουθώντας κάποια ξενάγηση.


Οι φωτογραφίες προέρχονται από την ομάδα Mapmakers, με επικεφαλής τον Michael Broxton της NASA, η δουλειά της οποίας είναι να παίρνει δορυφορικές φωτογραφίες από τον Άρη ή από οπουδήποτε αλλού στο Ηλιακό Σύστημα, και να τις μετατρέπει σε χάρτη.

Ο διευθυντής της Microsoft Research, Dan Fay, συνεργάστηκε με τον Broxton για τη μετατροπή αυτών των φωτογραφιών και των χαρτών σε μια εντυπωσιακή εμπειρία μέσω της εφαρμογής WorldWide Telescope:

Η NASA είχε τις φωτογραφίες και ήταν ανοιχτή σε προτάσεις για να τις μοιραστεί. Μέσω του WorldWide Telescope καταφέραμε να δημιουργήσουμε ένα περιβάλλον στο οποίο οι χρήστες θα μπορέσουν να απολαύσουν το υπέροχο υλικό τους

Οι φωτογραφίες έχουν τραβηχτεί σε απίστευτα μεγάλη ανάλυση, κάθε μία έχει μέγεθος 1GB (!), και χρειάστηκαν περίπου 13.000 φωτογραφίες για να γίνει ο “υψηλότερης ανάλυσης χάρτης του Άρη μέχρι τώρα”.

Το WorldWide Telescope είναι διαθέσιμο ως εφαρμογή για desktop ή απευθείας στην ιστοσελίδα www.worldwidetelescope.org

Microsoft and NASA Bring Mars Down to Earth Through the WorldWide Telescope


REDMOND, Wash. — July 12, 2010 —

Today, Microsoft Research and NASA are providing an entirely new experience to users of the WorldWide Telescope, which will allow visitors to interact with and explore our solar system like never before. Viewers can now take exclusive interactive tours of the Red Planet, hear directly from NASA scientists, and view and explore the most complete, highest-resolution coverage of Mars available. To experience Mars up close, Microsoft and NASA encourage viewers to download the new WWT|Mars experience.

A NASA photo of Olympus Mons, the tallest known mountain in the solar system, using wide-angle imagery from NASA’s Viking orbiters and the Mars Orbiter Camera. 
Click for high-res version.
Dan Fay, director of Microsoft Research’s Earth, Energy and Environment effort, works with scientists around the world to see how technology can help solve their research challenges. Since early 2009, he’s been working with NASA to bring imagery from the agency’s Mars and moon missions to life, and to make their valuable volumes of information more accessible to the masses.

“We wanted to make it easier for people everywhere, as well as scientists, to access these unique and valuable images,” says Fay. “NASA had the images and they were open to new ways to share them. Through the WorldWide Telescope we were able to build a user interface at WWT|Mars that would allow people to take advantage of the great content they had.”

To create the new Mars experience in the WorldWide Telescope, Fay worked closely with Michael Broxton of the NASA Ames Research Center’s Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG). Broxton leads a team in the IRG informally called the Mapmakers, which applies computer vision and image processing to problems of cartography. Over the years, the Mapmakers have taken satellite images from Mars, the moon and elsewhere, and turned them into useful maps. Broxton says that getting the results of NASA’s work out to the public is an important part of his mission.

“NASA has a history of providing the public with access to our spacecraft imagery,” he says. “With projects like the WorldWide Telescope, we’re working to provide greater access so that future generations of scientists can discover space in their own way.”

It is the mission of Fay’s team at Microsoft to push the boundaries of technology in service of scientific discovery and advance the state of the art in computer science overall. He explains that the approach to the Mars WorldWide Telescope project was to provide information at your fingertips. As such, Fay says the WorldWide Telescope is as much a research project as a Web service — one that has resulted in a truly stellar experience for users.

“We were able to take the imagery from NASA, combine it with their elevation models and lay those onto the surface of the globe of Mars,” Fay says. “Now users of the WorldWide Telescope can zoom down and actually experience the surface-level detail of Mars. They can pan back and see the height of the craters or the depth of the canyons. The new Mars experience allows people to feel as though they’re actually there.”

In particular, there’s a new dataset from the University of Arizona’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a state-of-the-art, remote-sensing camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. HiRISE collects incredible images of super high resolution — a quarter of a meter per pixel on average. Each HiRISE image is a gigapixel in size, containing 100 times as much information as a 10 megapixel off-the-shelf camera.

“Due to its size, the data set is too unwieldy for many people to work with,” notes Fay. “But that large data set is necessary to provide the most in-depth experience — the most beautiful images, which are full of information. We needed this immense level of data to even begin to attempt to create this unique Mars experience.”

To get those images out to the public in a new way, the team set an ambitious goal to take all of the HiRISE images, 13,000 or so, and stitch them onto a single coherent map. While HiRISE has only imaged about 1 percent of Mars, leaving vast regions of Mars still to be explored, all of the HiRISE images have now been geolocated on a single map, and correlated with other global Mars data sets. Dotted with HiRISE images acquired so far, this new coherent map is the highest-resolution map of Mars’ surface ever constructed.


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