Microsoft Research Illuminates Night Sky and Mars in 3-D With WorldWide Telescope

REDMOND, Wash. — July 12, 2010 — Today at the 11th annual Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, Microsoft Corp. announced the latest version of the WorldWide Telescope and unveiled the largest seamless spherical map ever made of the night sky. Microsoft also released the most complete high-resolution coverage of Mars available, provided through an ongoing collaborative relationship with NASA, allowing WorldWide Telescope users to experience Mars in 3-D.

To learn more, Microsoft encourages viewers to download the WorldWide Telescope rich application at http://www.worldwidetelescope.org.

During Faculty Summit, which brings together more than 350 academic thought leaders, Microsoft will also award $1.4 million in research grants through the Faculty Fellows grant program. The program, which began in 2005, now encompasses nearly 40 academic researchers whose exceptional talent for research and innovation identify them as emerging leaders in their fields.

The 2010 Faculty Summit is an important three-day event that lays the groundwork for Microsoft’s future collaboration with universities, industry and governments as the organizations jointly work to advance research, inspire technological innovation, enhance the educational experience and cultivate the next generation of thought leaders.

“Much like space, scientific discovery knows no boundaries,” said Tony Hey, corporate vice president of External Research at Microsoft Research. “A generation ago, scientists often worked isolated in their laboratories. Today, collaboration can help lead to great discoveries. Through events like Faculty Summit and programs like Faculty Fellows, we’re proud to facilitate that important interaction and help promising researchers around the world through funding.”

Microsoft Launches Largest Spherical Map of Sky Ever Created



Project TeraPixel

As part of the new user experience in the WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft is also announcing a first of its kind: a high-resolution spherical TeraPixel sky map now available to viewers within the telescope. The map is the largest and highest-quality spherical image of the sky currently available and was created from data provided by the Digitized Sky Survey, a collection of thousands of images taken over a period of 50 years by two ground-based survey telescopes. When those images are combined and processed, the TeraPixel image provides a complete, spherical, panoramic rendering of the night skies that, if displayed at full size, would require 50,000 high-definition televisions to view. The new high-quality image will provide scientists with the ability to navigate through space dynamically to make their own discoveries.

Creating the TeraPixel image was a massive data-capture process requiring the latest in scientific tools. Microsoft researchers were able to use the Project Trident workflow workbench and the DryadLINQ interface for Microsoft .NET to combine thousands of images and systematically remove differences in exposure, brightness, noise floor and color saturation.

Using the Project Trident technology, Microsoft Research automated the data analysis and visualization process and was able to manage the workflow for TeraPixel in an efficient way. With Project Trident and DryadLINQ, Microsoft Research reduced the time it took to run one iteration of the TeraPixel image from weeks to hours, making the creation of an image of this size and quality possible for the first time. In addition to their use in creating the TeraPixel image, Project Trident and DryadLINQ can be used to empower scientists in other data-intensive fields, such as oceanography, environmental science and medical research.

Those wanting to learn more about the TeraPixel project and the technology that made it possible can download the WorldWide Telescope rich application at http://www.worldwidetelescope.org.

Microsoft and NASA Provide Close Encounter With Mars



Mars

Provided to the public under the Microsoft and NASA Space Act Agreement of 2009, the fully interactive images and exciting new NASA dataset will allow viewers to virtually explore the Red Planet and make their own scientific discoveries. New features include a true-color map of Mars, astonishing 3-D rendering of the surface of the planet, and exclusive interactive video tours with two noted NASA scientists, James Garvin, Ph.D. of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Carol Stoker, Ph.D. of the NASA Ames Research Center.

“With this release, NASA and Microsoft Research are providing an entirely new viewing experience in WorldWide Telescope,” said Chris C. Kemp, chief technology officer for IT at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. “By providing the Mars dataset to the public in Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope platform, we are lowering the barrier of access to this information and enabling a whole new audience to experience the thrill of space.”

Microsoft Research Awards $1.4 Million in Funding to Next Generation of Scientists

During the Faculty Summit, Hey also announced the recipients of the 2010 Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship grants, which were awarded to seven promising young researchers around the world for a total grant distribution of $1.4 million. The Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship program provides $200,000 each to innovative new faculty members who are exploring breakthrough, high-impact research that has the potential to help solve some of today’s most challenging societal problems. Fellows can use the grant at their discretion. The seven Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows are as follows:

  • Raanan Fattal, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Fattal explores solutions for computer graphics, low-level vision and image processing.

  • Cyrill Stachniss, University of Freiburg. Stachniss works on probability reasoning for mobile robotics.

  • Evimaria Terzi, Boston University. Terzi’s interests include the use of algorithms to extract useful data from large sets of information.

  • Haiying (Helen) Shen, Clemson University. Shen focuses on distributed and parallel computer systems and networks.

  • Doug Downey, Northwestern University. Downey’s research focuses on natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

  • abhi shelat, University of Virginia. shelat’s research focuses on the modern study of cryptography.

  • Sinan Aral, New York University. Aral examines the role of information and information technology in the productivity and performance of companies.

More information about the Faculty Fellows program and how to apply can be found at http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/collaboration/awards/msrff.aspx.

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art. Microsoft Research has expanded over the years to eight locations worldwide and a number of collaborative projects that bring together the best minds in computer science to advance a research agenda based on their unique talents and interests. Microsoft Research has locations in Redmond, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India, and also conducts research at the Cairo Microsoft Innovation Center in Egypt; European Microsoft Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany; and the eXtreme Computing Group in Redmond. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at http://www.research.microsoft.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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