Finally! The summer is almost done in the Seattle area and it will soon be ... rainy again. Rain is, of course, highly conducive to productivity as it forces folks to stay indoors and catch up on their debugging...

More importantly, we've been working on improving and stabilizing the data pipeline in the WorldWide Telescope (WWT). This revived blog will document some of our efforts, in the hope that it will help yours.

Let's start with the file format WWT uses to transfer information. It's called WTML, for WwT Markup Language. A WTML file is an XML file that can be used for several functions, such as community registration, image location, collection definition, etc. WTML files do not store images (at least not in their current state). They store pointers to imagery, and details about how the imagery should be displayed.

You can double click on a WTML file and have it start in WWT. If you want to share WWT-related data with others, WTML is the way to go. The WTML documentation is still being written, but you can make a few guesses by looking at the files with a text editor.

In the last fortnight, a couple of science groups have put WTML files on their webpages, one for surveys, one for studies.

For example, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) is a cosmology project led by Dr. Charles Bennett of Johns Hopkins University. The WMAP science team has dozens of scientists and other technically minded people that investigates the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang. WWT included the results of their first three years of observations in our beta launch. They released the results of the first five years of observation earlier this year, and on their WMAP-WWT page you can find a WTML file that allows you to browse these images in WWT. Michael Greason and David Larson put it up.

w5 starsThe second example is from the Spitzer Space Telescope, where Jacob Llamas and Rob Hurt put up a wtml file on the Press Release page for a pair of wonderful high-resolution infrared images of the W5 star-forming regions. One was the Astronomy Picture of the Day for 29 August 2008. You will also find there a WWT Tour (.WTT) file with a nice story about what the pretty pictures actually mean. The tour was made at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) at Harvard by Lori Allen, Xavier Koenig (the authors of the study about said images) and Sanjana Sharma.

If anyone is interested in hosting WTML files for their own data, please contact us. We do intend to move things along so that folks can put up imagery and create and host WTML files themselves, but we haven't quite got there yet. You can, of course, already put up WTT files for your own tours on your websites.


Originally posted by dinos. Migrated to new blog location by derickc.