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Here we answer questions about using Layerscape and Worldwide Telescope. We begin with some common questions about the Worldwide Telescope application that runs on your PC (install using orange button at top) with short immediate answers. Other questions -- further down -- act as links to deeper answers. Note you may also check the FAQ at our companion WWT Website

Frequently Asked About Using Worldwide Telescope for Earth

  • How do I see the Earth? At the lower left is a Look At drop-down menu: Select Earth. (Using View at the top you can make the Earth your default view.)
  • How do I make my point of view go into the earth looking up? Hold ctrl + shift down, hold middle mouse down, drag the mouse. Experiment!
  • How do I make the view Full Screen and back again? F11 for full screen, F11 or Escape to go back.
  • Can I lighten up the sky, say to blue instead of black? Click Settings to bring up the tool bar, check Show Earth Sky at the left.
  • How do I fix random wrong tiles (like bits of land in the middle of the ocean)? Press Ctrl + F5 and this will flush the stored (wrong) versions of whatever you are looking at and go get the right ones.
  • Can I make the oblique view puzzle-piece boundary go away? Not at this time :(
  • Can I make the oceans look prettier, less uniform? Yes (but better ocean texture is coming soon!) Until then you can click Explore (upper left), Earth, Blue Marble January. Notice that 'Earth' may be on the second page of Explore options; if you do not see it look for a right-arrow at the far right of My Collections, Constellations, Solar System (Sky), etcetera.
  • Are the buttons at the top double buttons? Yes; they are each split: The text part and the little dropdown-chevron. We differentiate these for example with Explore and Explore-v.
  • Can I make the Earth smaller? Not in Look At: Earth mode; but Look At: Solar System and the Earth becomes quite small. Alas in this mode there is less viewing flexibility :(
  • In Solar System mode half the Earth is dark; can I change this? View , (3d solar system), Un-check Lighting .
  • How do I turn on the Layer Manager for managing imported data? Click on the Layer icon at the lower left (it looks like a blue footprint).
  • Do you have a resource page for data visualization? Yes, it is this page.
  • I have data in a table in Excel including latitude and longitude columns with headers; how can I import this to WWT? Select the data, right-click Copy, then in WWT: Right click on Earth in the Layer Manager and select Paste. This brings up a data import wizard.
  • I see (in Excel) how to create solids that come up from the earth's surface. Is there a way to make floating solids? Yes, but only as wire frame figures (using LINESTRING well-known text); not solids yet. See this example
  • How do I inspect time-series data? Use the time slider on time-active layers; and/or create time-looping playback. See this Word document for more details.
  • How do I explore WMS (Web Mapping Service) data sources on the web? Right-click on the planet or sun in the Layer Manager and select 'Add WMS Layer'. See the Layerscape visualization page for more details.
  • How do I get into writing programs that interact with WWT? We use .NET and a semi-RESTFUL interface called a Layer Control API. To get started: Check out the Layer Control API manual and take a look at the Narwhal open source library .

General Questions

Communities

Security

Known Issues

Frequently Asked Questions: Answers

General Questions

Why does Microsoft provide freely availableresearch tools? And what are they?

In short: We are researchers, we build tools, and we share them because we can!In fact Microsoft Research is dedicated to finding new applications of technology to hard problems; and scientific research is a particularly rich area for finding hard problems to solve. We make tools and data availableas a double-win proposition: We hope our contributions will help scientists save time and effort and 'get on with it', whetherthey studyDNA sequences or the magnetic field of Jupiter; and we hope that this will reflect positive attention and interest in Microsoft technology and Microsoft as a company.

Some of our research tools include:

  • Layerscape: A freely-availableand very powerful data visualization and collaboration tool (this website).
  • FetchClimate: A fast, free, intelligent climate information service that operates over the cloud to return exactly the information you need.
  • DataSet Viewer: A simple standalone menu-driven tool for quickly exploring and comparing time series, geographic distributions and other patterns within scientific data.
  • Network 3D: A software package for highly interactive and flexible three-dimensional visualizations of complex networks, ecological and otherwise.
  • Dynamic Data Display: A set of Silverlight controls for creating line graphs, geographic data maps, bubble charts, heat maps and other complex 2D plots.
  • Filzbach: A flexible, fast, robust parameter estimation engine that allows you to parameterize arbitrary non linear models against multiple heterogeneous data sets.
  • BioCharts: A tool developed for computational biology and stem cell research that uses avisual language to model complex dynamics in an intuitive, accessible manner.
  • GEC (Genetic Engineering of Cells language): A programming language for designing and simulating genetic circuits to reprogram cell behavior.
  • DSD (DNA Strand Displacement language): A programming language for designing and simulating computational circuits made of DNA.
  • Skomer: An open, reconfigurable, flexible, wirelessly-enabled low-cost animal tracking technology.
  • SPiM (Stochastic Pi Machine language): A programming language for modelling and simulating complex biological processes in a modular manner; based on the pi-calculus and on the standard kinetic theory of physical chemistry.
  • Dmitrov: A set of compiled code libraries to facilitate use of multidimensional datasets in diverse formats and sizes.


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I get the idea of Layerscape; so how do I get started?

Here's the recipe for getting on your way

  • Get a PC that isrunning Windows 7 or Windows 8
  • Click on the orange button at the top of this page: Install Worldwide Telescope and then install the Excel Add-In for Worldwide Telescope. You can find that here
  • Go to the Learn More page and read through it; that provides some additional context.
  • Return to the home page and look at the Featured Content on the left side. When you find something that looks interesting: Click on the blue View Tour bar under the icon. This will download the Tour (data plus cinematography) and automatically start playing it in Worldwide Telescope. Feel free to pause the Tour playback and explore through the data by flying around.
  • Explore the Featured content; we hope you will want to join in and start creating your own.
  • To learn the basics: Return to the home page and click on the fourth Featured Content link, How To. This will download a Power Point tutorial that walks you step-by-step through creating sample data in Excel, importing this to WWT, making a Tour for that data, and then publishing the Tour on Layerscape.


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Do I Need To Join Communities to Participate/Contribute?

Simple answer is 'No';just get a Windows Live ID so we can be sure you're you when you sign in (we have nothing against robots but they make lousy Worldwide Telescope Tours). For our main Communities and Categories (Ancient Earth, Oceans and Rivers, Life Science and so on) you can freely contribute and comment on content. Most of what is here is public but we also provide means of creating private Communities; more on this below.



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How does Layerscape relate to WorldWide Telescope and the Excel Add-in?

Layerscape is a visualization and sharing experience that combines the beauty of the WorldWide Telescope Application (WWT) with the power of Excel and the accessibility of a cloud-based browser interface. Layerscape is provided as a no cost research tool for content-based collaboration between scientific researchers, educators, students, and hobbyists.

We are focused on enabling three key aspects of data visualization:

  • Make it easy to get data into the WWT rendering engine
  • Facilitate insight into that data through freedom of perspective, time series playback, and support for multiple data types
  • Enable storytelling focused around the data using the WWT authoring tools.

Our emphasis is on earth science; but WWT retains all of its astronomy and planetary science functionality as well. Get started, install WorldWide Telescope and the Excel Add-in . Then browse through the content on Layerscape or import your data and create and publish your own tours. Check out how to create a tour in the How To category.

For more information on importing your data, click here .



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Who is this site for?

This site is for people interested in visual science. There are tools and content for professional scientists (earth scientists and astronomers) and educators to add their own data to create content and communities. For general interest, anyone can view the many public tours and data and try their hand at creating their own visualizations. The majority of content is published by a range of advanced users including climatologists (in particular, those interested in Modis satellite data), oceanographers, social scientists, geologists, ecologists, geophysicists - to name but a few of the earth based scientists - as well as lunar scientists, and of course astronomers.



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What is this site for?

This site has been set up primarily to enable Earth scientists to collaborate with their peers in visualizing their data, their studies, and their scientific ideas. Data, such as images, videos or collections of location based data, can be published easily. Studies and ideas can be articulated through the creation of tours (animated slide shows). In addition, the site enables educators to collaborate with their faculty and students both in the sharing of their own data and studies, and also in the viewing of the scientific data where it has been made available for general viewing.



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What is a Layer?

A Layer is a data container that can be visualized in combination with other layers. Each layer has its own on/off switch so you can control what is visible. For example, you can use earthquake data as one layer and add tsunami data as another layer and see potential correlations. For more information on how to add a data layer, see the WorldWide Telescope help documentation. To access the documentation select the Explore > Getting Started menu option available within WorldWide Telescope. This will open up the documentation in a separate window.



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Do I need to install WorldWide Telescope to use this site?

No. You can browse the site, publish and view video previews, and create communities without installing WorldWide Telescope. You will, however, need to install WorldWide Telescope to view most content and create tours. WorldWide Telescope is a free download available from Microsoft Research here . WorldWide Telescope is a highly rated program enabling the seamless viewing of the Earth, the Solar System, and Outer Space. The image below shows the Earth, with the lighting effect of the Sun taken into account (an optional effect) and the Milky Way and nearby stars in the background.



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What is a Tour?

A tour is an animated slide-show. The slide-show typically focuses on one particular topic, each slide showing a relevant image, and together with on-screen text, narration and music, a story is told in the tour. Popular tours cover subjects such as the Galilean moons, earthquakes, volcanoes, the center of the Milky Way, and so on. In most tours the user is not required to do anything except start them and then watch. In a few tours the user can be asked questions and interact with the tour (for example, in the form of a simple quiz). The tour format is unique to WorldWide Telescope. The image below shows a slide from the "Ring of Fire" tour - displaying earthquakes from a period in 2009.



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What does it mean to publish content?

Publishing content to this site means that you upload tours, data collections or images, and others will be able to view them. The content can be published to a community, which will identify the content as being relevant to that communities' particular area of interest, or it can be published outside of a community for general viewing. The content should be given both a main category and several keywords (such as "Climate Science", "Astronomy", "Oceans and Rivers", etc) so that it will be discovered by the search feature of this site.



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Does viewing or publishing any of the content on this site cost money?

No. WorldWide Telescope is a free download available from Microsoft Research. This community site is also run by Microsoft Research, and its resources, both for hosting, publishing, and viewing, are provided free of charge.



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How do I learn to create tours?

The documentation provided with WorldWide Telescope includes a comprehensive section on how to create tours, including features for advanced tours (interactive quizzes, time series data, smooth slide transitions, and so on). To access the documentation select the Explore > Getting Started menu option available within WorldWide Telescope. This will open up the documentation in a separate window.

Alternatively Check out how to create a tour in the How To category



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Can I publish tours or content that is promotional or advertising for an educational or commercial program I am working on?

Content that promotes an educational product or program will be carefully moderated by Microsoft Research. Content from bona fide educational establishments working in the field of Earth science is encouraged.



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What kind of data can be published to this site?

Several different types of data can be published: tours (animated slide-shows), data collections (lists of locations on Earth, or in space), spreadsheet data, videos, images and optionally image location data (such as your own photographs of places on the Earth or in space). You can also publish an OData feed (see ‘What is OData?’ For more information) as a layer, links, Powerpoint presentations, and documents.

Tours are a good way of presenting your studies or arguments by enabling a disparate collection of data to be visualized and described in a way that informs, educates and possibly entertains your viewers. Excel spreadsheet data that matches a certain format (columns for latitude, longitude, altitude, magnitude of the event, and so on) can be included in a tour (using the add-in for Excel ) , or simply uploaded as data for your peers to view.



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What is Odata?

The Open Data Protocol (OData) is a web protocol for querying and updating data under the Web-REST paradigm. This means that if a data source is on the web, instead of downloading the data yourself and uploading it elsewhere, you can have the different systems talk to each other directly. However, they must speak the same language, using the same communication protocol. OData is a formalized method for having computer-to-computer data exchanges with some powerful and useful built-in features. A data service that speaks OData is said to be an OData feed. Within Layerscape, we are interested in feeds that include geospatial information. You can use the WWT Layerscape application to connect to an OData feed, pull data, display it, and refresh it automatically. This raises the possibility of using an OData-to-Layerscape connection to display geospatial data in real time.

Technically speaking: Odata is built on upon Web technologies such as HTTP , Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub) and JSON to provide access to information from a variety of applications, services, and stores. The Odata resource page is http://odata.org . The Odata protocol emerged from experiences implementing AtomPub clients and servers in a variety of products at Microsoft over the past several years. OData is being used to expose and access information from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, relational databases, file systems, content management systems and traditional Web sites.

Assuming you have identified an OData feed to connect to, your next step is to set it up in the WWT Layerscape Application. To do so, open WWT, open the layer manager and right click on the Earth. Select the ‘Add OData/Table feed as Layer’ option and a wizard will walk you through the remaining steps.



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What are the recommended Browser’s to view Layerscape?

The recommended Browser’s for Layerscape are IE9, Firefox 8.0, and Chrome 15.0. Though Layerscape may work in other browsers and versions, they are not officially supported.



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What kind of support is Microsoft Research going to provide if I run into problems using or publishing to this website?

There are multiple ways to get help on the site:

Both these options are accessible via the 'Help' drop down on the header of this site.

WorldWide Telescope has its own support system



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Communities

What is a Community?

For the purposes of this site a community is a group of people sharing a common scientific interest, and who appreciate having a single location they can navigate to on the web that contains tours, images and other data, that is specific to the area of interest. There are public communities that anyone can join and there are communities specific to a certain group (such as students and faculty at a university or college). Community members can view all the available data and upload their own work (tours, data collections, and so on) to the site. Community sites grow over time.



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Who can create a community?

Anyone can create a community. All you will need is a WindowsLive ID. Communities are typically created by scientists working in an area not covered by the existing communities or educators wishing to have a single point of contact for their students and faculty. There is no fee to create a community, and no limit to the number of communities that can be created. You do not need to have academic or scientific credentials to create a community.



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Who can publish content to my community?

You and members you assign ‘Moderator’ and ‘Contributor’ permissions to will be able to publish content to your community. You set these permissions when someone tries to join your community.



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Can I remove or edit data published to my community?

Yes. You will be the ‘Owner’ of the community and can modify its contents. Members who have ‘Moderator’ permissions to your community will also be able to do everything you can do except Remove or Delete your community. Members with ‘Contributor’ permissions can modify and edit only their content and not content added to your community by other Contributors.



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Can I publish content to a community I did not create?

Yes, if you have ‘Moderator’ or ‘Contributor’ permissions, you are free to publish your content (tours, data collections, images) to the community.



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How do I invite somebody to join my community??

  • Get the Windows Live ID (email address) for the party you wish to invite to join your Community.
  • Look at the Toolbar at the top which says "Sign in" or "Welcome <Your Name>"
  • If it says "Sign in" go ahead and sign in using your Windows Live ID.
  • Now it says Welcome <Your Name>. Click on this and select My Profile .
  • There are 3 tabs in your Profile: My Content, My Communites and My Requests. Select My Communities .
  • Notice that there are two icons by the Community names here (assuming you have created at least one): A Community icon (little people) and a Folder icon. (Folders are just a convenient organizational structure within a Community.)
  • To issue an invite to a Community you must go to the Community page by clicking on the title of the Community. Do not click on the blue " View Community " bar under the Community icon; this will link the Community to your WWT application, not what you are trying to do here.
  • Under the icon for the Community (on the Community page) are several action links including " Invite People ". Click on this and fill out the invitation form. This is where you use the Windows Live ID of your invitee.
  • Very important: You can selecta Role for your invitee, which by default will be Contributor. If you make them a Moderator or Owner they will have very strong administrative privileges with respect to your Community. If they are an Owner they can even delete the Community! If you make them a Contributor then they can add new content to your Community (without approval by you). If they are a Reader then they will be able to view content but they will not be able to contribute new content.
  • If your Community is Private then inviting someone to bea Reader will enable them to see thisprivate content.


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I received a request to join my community; how do I accept or reject it?

  • Look at the Toolbar at the top which says "Sign in" or "Welcome <Your Name>"
  • If it says "Sign in" go ahead and sign in using your Windows Live ID.
  • Now it says Welcome <Your Name>. Click on this and select My Profile.
  • There are 3 tabs in your Profile: My Content, My Communites and My Requests. Select My Requests .
  • Notice that there are two columns at the rightof critical importance on this page: Permission Request and Action
    • Permission Request is the level of administrative responsibility this person will have if you Accept their Request.
    • Accept / Reject is your choice and will be your response to their request. Note that you can change their Permission level to any of four Roles: Reader, Contributor, Moderator or Owner. If you make them a Moderator or Owner they will have very strong administrative privileges with respect to your Community. If they are an Owner they can even delete the Community!
  • Once you have clicked on Accept or Reject you are done and the request will no longer be listed here.


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Security

If I choose to create a community, or publish my data on its own, can my data be edited or deleted by someone else, or by staff at Microsoft Research?

Content that belongs to a community can be modified/deleted by the community owners and moderators or by a moderator at Microsoft Research. The usual rules of common sense and appropriateness apply to all content published as well as discussion comments. If you do notice some inappropriate content, you are encouraged to flag the page, in order for a moderator to intervene if necessary.



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When I publish data or create a community what kind of personal information do I need to provide?

You will not need to provide any additional information other than what is required to obtain a WindowsLive ID. Your user name will be displayed after the "Created by" label for the community or data, but a viewer will not have access to your email address or to any other means of contacting you. Discussion on content of this site is limited to the discussion forums that are present on most pages of this site.



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Known Issues

What are the known issues?

  • WorldWide Telescope
    • You need WorldWide Telescope to be installed before accessing Tours, Layers and Collections. Trying to view such files without having WorldWide Telescope will result in Windows showing an 'open with' dialog.
    • WorldWide Telescope does not currently support mobile platforms or Mac OS.
  • Content
    • Adding content of more than 100MB in size is not supported.
    • Uploading a csv file or an xlsx file does not automatically result in visualizations in the WorldWide Telescope. Use the WorldWide Telescope Add-in for Excel to generate visualizations from your spreadsheet data.
    • Overwriting your content results in a new download path. Do not share the download path with your users, instead use the share options provided in the Layerscape interface.
    • Attachments added to content will not show up in the WorldWide Telescope.
    • For thumbnails, only PNG, JPG and JPEG file formats are supported.
  • Profile
    • If your name shows up as 'None Provided' you should update it in your Profile page. To visit your Profile page, click 'Welcome' located on the top right of this page and select the 'My Profile' option. On your profile page click 'Edit Profile' to update your name.
  • Video
    • For videos, only WMV and MP4 file formats are supported.
  • Languages
    • The website is available in English only at this time.


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