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I looked at the gazebo-1.0.0-RC2 source code, and found that the <sky> element creates an OGRE SkyDome with curvature 10, tiling 8, distance 4000, and an orientation along the positive z axis. Since the tiling value cannot be specified in the world file, it is impossible to use a lat-long environment map, which would require a tiling value of 1. A work-around is to refrain from specifying a sky, instead surrounding the scene with a giant cube mesh that is mapped with the appropriate textures.

The version of Gazebo in Electric supports using 16-bit OpenEXR files as texture maps.