Zooming Through the Pure Night Sky

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SkyBeautiful and Internet Explorer 9 are all you need to experience a complete model of the 120,000 stars closest to our sun. It's just that page and your browser: no plug-ins, no waiting for extra data from other sites, and no wonky or buggy third-party code will deter your enjoyment as you zoom through the night sky with your mouse.

SkyBeautiful was created by Chicago's Tanagram Partners using data from NASA, Microsoft's World Wide Telescope, and the European Space Agency. The site takes this data, loads it straight into your browser, and then populates the black void of your screen with a brilliantly accurate view of the heavens. Small captions appear and fade, marking special conditions, events, or objects in the sector of the heavens you're viewing. (Drag the sky with your mouse to view other regions.)

Click on any caption to open an overlay featuring a beautiful, zoomable photo of the object or event described, along with explanatory text and links. Information is also provided for 84 constellations, whose outlines light up under your mouse. You can learn, for example, the stories behind Chamaeleon and Ursa Minor and Virgo. Each constellation is also cleverly accompanied by a small illustration showing how far each of its stars is from the sun.

SkyBeautiful crunches a staggering amount of data, but you won't know it if you're browsing with Internet Explorer 9, whose brand-new, super-fast scripting engine compiles the code and hands it off to your hardware in less than an instant. Meanwhile, the site deploys other new Web standards, such as custom fonts and Scalable Vector Graphics. Even adding those doesn't slow things down. As Tim Chapel, Tanagram's design technology lead, says: "As we continued to add layers of sophistication to the presentation, everything just kept moving at the same speed. It was amazing to see."

This story, "Zooming Through the Pure Night Sky " was originally published by BrandPost.