Communities are the primary way in which WWT users can share data and tours with each other. They are made by external individuals or organizations, such as planetariums, science centres, astronomy clubs, magazines, blogs, schools, classes, and class projects. Anyone can create multiple communities.

You can set up your own community using your own servers  (we do not yet offer specific storage for this purpose) and have it working using WWT without ever telling us at Microsoft Research about it. Having said that, more people will find your community if you list it on our Community Directory (see a subset of existing communities at the WWT Support page), contact us here if you want your community listed. To be considered for inclusion in the community directory, community sites must maintain standards in terms of quality, scalability, and content appropriateness. These standards include:

  1. Sign-up membership may be required, but community access must remain free for all users.
  2. Community content must be well moderated, free of hate speech, and reflect currently accepted astronomical information/theory.
  3. Must have sufficient capacity for handling projected traffic.
  4. Must make use of integrated WWT features like tours, sky-aligned images, etc. Not just simple HTML links to existing web content.

To set up a community, you should first add the WWT file extensions to the of mime types on your server.


File Extension

Mime Type

WWT Collections (and Communities)



WWT Tours



WWT Constellation Figures



Then you need to set up the following files:

  1. Thumbnail for the community. This should be 176 x 45 pixels.
  2. Payload file. This is THE file at the heart of the community, determining its folder structure, etc. It is a WTML file that can link to other WTML files as well. It can be, in its simplest form, a static WTML file that is hand-edited on the server side. It can also be generated from a database so that it is constantly updated. For details on how to create WTML files, see the previous post.
  3. Signup file. This is a short WTML file that points to the Thumbnail and Payload files, and gives the title of the community. Here is the signup file for the WWT Data Community .
  <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?> 
  <Folder Name="WWT Data Community" 
Url="" />

And … that’s it   All the power of a community is in how you generate the payload file. You can have a Content Management System and databases to generate your payload file automatically, and keep changing it depending on where the WWT application is currently looking, for example.  We will provide examples of that in future posts.

PS: Tools to produce your own WTML and image files for studies, panoramas and surveys (as some people have requested in comments on earlier posts) will be released in the next 2-4 weeks. But you can produce your own communities with tours and locations now.

Addendum: Here is a partial list of resources that can be contained in the payload of a community:

  • Tours
  • Study Images
  • Surveys
  • Panoramas
  • Lists of locations e.g. observing lists, locations of supernovae found last night, etc. This is just a Place entry without an ImageSet.
  • Catalog objects
  • Articles or any other uploaded content e.g. PDFs, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets
  • constellation figures (that’s what the WWTFIG extension is for)
  • HTML links e.g. to articles or the organization’s webpages
  • Blog entries
  • conversation threads / discussion boards


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