Space simulation freeware and useful websites to get you closer to the skies

On 16 October, 2012 by Carol
andromeda 300x224 Space simulation freeware and useful websites to get you closer to the skies
The Andromeda Galaxy

If you are interested in astronomy, then you know that there are tons of space simulators out there and you probably have picked up your favorite by now.
As it is my first time installing and using them, i cannot tell for sure which one is the best one, but i can tell you which one i like most.
I will also add some links containing general information about universe, telescopes and binoculars.

1) Astronomy downloads

Celestia is free 3D space freeware that lets you explore the universe.
“You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy.”

This program is really nice and it does what it says; you can travel throughout the space, select and zoom-in into planets and stars on our solar system and outside. It’s a beautiful experience for the curious eye.
BUT, there are bugs now and then, such as failing to display (load) the objects in the “Star Browser” and “Solar System Browser”. Very often, when accessed, the browsers are blank.
Like any respected software that has to load tons of graphics, Celestia is a heavy RAM consumer.
Other than that, i really like it.

Stellarium – this open-source software lets you explore the skies in 3D and might i add, it’s a beautiful app but it can turn out to be painful at times. I like it very much despite the issues i got so far with it.
The search function doesn’t always work and there is no way to minimize the app. The only way out is exiting the software. It also blocks often when running the scripts.

OpenUniverse is “an open-source software that lets you explore our solar system, the planets, the major moons and other objects.”
This app is pretty decent, very simple and it has the weirdest zoom-in option i have ever seen.
It’s not even half as interesting like the 2 above but for the amateurs is good enough to start with.

Sky Chart – “This program enables you to draw sky charts, making use of the data in 16 catalogs of stars and nebulae. In addition the position of planets, asteroids and comets are shown.”
The best part about this software is that it lets you connect computerized telescopes to it.
I didn’t find anything specific that bothered me about it, so i guess i have to classify it as the most decent of them all.

WorldWide Telescope (Microsoft) – also available as a web client  – “is a Web 2.0 is the next generation of the World Wide Web wherein technologies and social practices use metadata or tags to enable communication and resource sharing in a variety of forms (text, audio, video, links, etc.) through the Web without a centralized authority’s intervention or approval. Rich visualization software provides a graphical visualization of large structured data sets. The software’s interactive graphical user interface provides users with a more data-rich presentation of the data and enables them to explore, filter, analyze, and interact with the data, resulting in a better understanding of that data.”>Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope—bringing together imagery from the world’s best ground and space-based telescopes for the exploration of the universe.”

This one is my favorite so far and it has nothing to do with being a Microsoft app.
Far from it, i am bothered by how many resources is using ( less than Celestia though), but what i really like about it is the way i can navigate, the interface, the information i get.
Rookies will be pleased with the extra help they get by having the most known galaxies and other sky objects already displayed, ready to be clicked on.
Like SkyChart, it also lets you connect computerized telescopes to it.

2) Astronomy Web Clients

Attention! Most of these web clients will consume lots of resources and may crash your browser.

WorldWide Telescope

“From web to desktop to full dome planetarium, WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables you to explore the universe, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world and combining it with 3D navigation. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky. You can research and import your own data and visualize it, then create a tour to share with others.”

Sky-Map  -  an index of planets, stars, and other space objects

  • The system can display about 500 millions the space objects of the star sky.
  • Information on every object maybe complemented and edited.
  • There is an easy search of the objects in place.
  • The users can upload the photographs of the districts of the star sky and integrate the objects on the map with the objects on the photographs.
  • The first version of API is implemented.

 

Google Sky – is not always responsive such as hen trying to access our solar system.
All the other objects come with lots additional information.

Carina Nebula Space simulation freeware and useful websites to get you closer to the skies
Carina Nebulae

3) Useful and informational links

Wikipedia’s List of notable galaxies – detailed description about each and everyone of them.

SkyMap Online Constellation List (maps available)

Buzzle.com Astronomy – my all-time favorite website offers tons of information about astronomy in general, planets, black holes, galaxies, facts, ….anything you want to know about, you will probably find it here.

BBC 4 Sky at night + Sky at Night Magazine – offers lots of useful tips and information about space objects.

ABC’s Beginner’s Guide to the Night Sky – guides, tours and astronomy basics

Astronomy Today – a collection of articles about space objects, tips about choosing the right telescopes and binoculars, guides…

Sky and Telescope – the essential guide to astronomy

If you decide to buy a telescope

Skywatcher.com has lots of tips and information about choosing the right telescope plus lots of extra info on their knowledge base.

Discovery.com – How to choose a telescope  is a must read.

Well…that’s about it for now.
If i find other useful links and software i will add them to the list.

Have a nice space trip!

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