Who has not been dazzled and intrigued when lifting his gaze to the celestial vault on a clear, dark night? The spectacle of those fleeting and distant lights racks both our eyes and our brains. Is this star farther away than that one, or is it simply less luminous? Is that little blot, barely visible over there, a nebula, a star cluster or a galaxy?
Stellarium – Current version: 0.9.0
One of the most beautiful astronomy software, Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.
It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.
Celestia – Current version: 1.4.1
The free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions. Celestia runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.
Unlike most planetarium software, Celestia doesn’t confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy. There are tons of add-ons, including models and graphics of new objects, including the fictional ones like Babylon 5 or The Death Star.
WinStars – Current version: 2.077 R1
Have you ever asked yourself where the Voyager space probes are? What does Saturn look like in Titan’s sky or, better yet, what does the rise of Jupiter look like from the surface of Europa? WinStars can help you find the answers to these questions.
WinStars uses the latest 3D technology to show the objects of our solar system in a realistic manner. Thus, it is possible to move from one planet to another, to follow a space probe on its long voyage or to observe a celestial event from a place to which you could never go. The use of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s DE 404 planetary theories allows us to have a precise representation of the events displayed.
OpenUniverse – Current version: Beta 3
Strictly spoken OpenUniverse is a piece of software, simulating the Solar System’s bodies in 3D on your Windows or Linux PC (will work in most *NIX’s as well). In difference to quite a few other programs it does so in realtime. Meaning you can view all the planets, moons and spaceships move along their paths, trace them, follow them, orbit them and even control them (time and spaceship contol).
StarCalc – Current version: 5.73
StarCalc is the fastest professional astronomy planetarium & star mapping program for Windows. It illustrates star positions of any instance of the day observed from any geographic locations on the Earth. The star positions can be viewed and presented as images of semispherical whole sky or any of the user defined sub-areas. These images can be zoomed at different scales, rotated, screen-captured and printed. Also, StarCalc has many other functions of calculation and showing of sky objects. There is also a version for PocketPC.
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