Put the universe on your desktop

Looking to jazz up your Windows 7 desktop? One easy way is to install a custom Windows 7 theme. Microsoft’s Personalization Gallery has an extensive collection, which is being updated regularly. A recent addition, currently featured, is the new NASA Hidden Universe theme.

Download the installer and follow the prompts to add the theme to your system (sorry, doesn’t work with Windows 7 Starter). In all, the theme includes 14 amazing pictures taken from the Spitzer Space Telescope at CalTech. The pictures are all provided at full HD WUXGA resolution, 1920×1200, which means they look great on large monitors and don’t have to be blown up. Here’s one example:

M17: Celestial Sea of Stars

When I posted this link on Twitter, one person asked where to find details about what each picture represents. There’s a short answer and a long answer to that question.

The long answer? Details about each picture in any theme you download are there, thanks to tags embedded in the image files. You just have to know where to look.

After installing the theme, here’s how to find the hidden details. This example uses the gorgeous Lugares Coloridos theme, which is available in the Featured Themes list in Microsoft’s Personalization Gallery.

1. Right-click any empty space on the Windows desktop and click Personalize.

2. In the Personalization dialog box, select the theme from the My Themes list (in this case, Lugares Coloridos).

3. Click Desktop Background in the row of four theme options along the bottom of the dialog box. That opens the Desktop Background dialog box shown here:


4. Point to any picture to see a screen tip, as I’ve done here. The Title field has the name of the picture, which is enough to identify the location of this distinctive old tower.

For even more details, right-click any image, click Properties, and then click the Details tab.

Unfortunately, I discovered this afternoon that whoever put this selection of pictures together for the NASA theme made an error and tagged them all with the exact same title and subject. So, unfortunately, you can’t tell get any details about each picture in this set. And although some clues are available in the file name for each one, searching for those terms at the Spitzer website doesn’t turn up additional details.

Oh well. They’re gorgeous regardless.

3 thoughts on “Put the universe on your desktop

  1. Cool find, Ed. One note, though…1920×1200 is WUXGA, isn’t it? Wouldn’t putting it on a “Full HD” (1920×1080) monitor require clipping or scaling?

    1. Yes, Joe, that’s correct. I could have worded it more artfully. I have often seen themes that contain 800×600 pics that look like junk when scaled up, so it’s nice to see images that reproduce well on large-format monitors.

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