The Software Story

Thanks to digital data projection, today’s planetariums can be used as immersive visualization spaces in both educational and research contexts. And, thanks to modern open-source, modular, approaches to software development, new visualization tools can be built by mixing, matching, and adding to established older ones. In 2019, a group of visualization experts meeting in Dagstuhl, Germany decided to try integrating elements of several astronomy data visualization packages, with the aim of creating new, flexible, data exploration environments that would be useful in both research and educational contexts, on any size screen, including a planetarium dome. Since then, a series of gatherings and experiments at New York’s Hayden Planetarium has led to the successful development of “plug-ins” that insert elements of one of three software packages (glue, WorldWide Telescope, OpenSpace) into the other two.


OpenSpace supports interactive presentation of dynamic data from observations, simulations, and space mission planning and operations. OpenSpace has an extensible architecture powering high resolution tiled displays and planetarium domes, and makes use of the latest graphic card technologies for rapid data throughput. It can be used anywhere, including on your own personal computer. The database of information used by OpenSpace is known as “The Digital Universe.”


glue is an open-source Python library used to explore relationships within and between related datasets. It was originally funded by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope project, and is today used in astronomy, medical imaging, climate science, and genomics research.

WorldWide Telescope

WorldWide Telescope is a suite of free and open source software and data sets that combine to create stunning scientific visualizations and stories. The WWT ecosystem includes a Windows application, an interactive web app, and toolkits for Python and TypeScript/JavaScript.