An astronomer friend of my husbandâ€™s introduced him to the WorldWide Telescope a few months ago, and weâ€™ve been staring into the heavens ever since. â€śWhich planet would you like to see first?â€ť my husband asked me once he had loaded the program onto his computer. No question: Saturn. Iâ€™ve always been fascinated by those rings. A few clicks of the mouse and there they were, circling and circling, a sash of light, a halo, a crown. We looked at Jupiter next, with its great red spot, a storm that has been swirling for centuries. We looked at Mercury, Venus, Mars, Plutoâ€”but we kept coming back to Saturn.
Each planet was unique, different from every other. But what they had in common was this: they shone out of utter darkness. With each turn of the telescope, a new planet came into view on our computer screen, surrounded by darkness so deep and complete that the light reflected by the planet couldnâ€™t penetrate it.