Gaze at the stars with Stellarium


Updated: July 31, 2009

We have had lots of programs featured here on Dedoimedo, but we never really focused on educational software. Until today. I'm going to present Stellarium, a beautiful, pleasant, addictive open-source planetarium software.

Stellarium is available for all major operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac) and will run well even on older machines. The program uses OpenGL to render realistic 3D sky in real time, giving you a genuine feel of the skydome.

Teaser

Features

In its default edition, Stellarium has 600,000 stars mapped, but you can download additional catalogs with hundreds of millions more. The program allows you to watch the stars from different observatories around the Earth. Planets of our solar system are also mapped. What more, you can also observe the universe from the inhospitable surface of the Moon of Planet Mars.

For better visual references, you can also add virtual grid to help you navigate the sky, name and illustrate constellations and display information on any stellar object selected.

Stellarium also has the fisheye projection mode for planetarium domes, spheric mirror projections for personal domes, multilingual interface, video record and playback, and many other cool items. You can take screenshots while in the program, no need for elaborate copy & paste.

Gallery

Here's an early evening as seen on our favorite Moon:

Mars night

And look there, an astronaut. Conspiracy theories, anyone?

Moon, zoomed

Earth at Midnight:

Midnight

Select any which celestial object and you'll see a wealth of information display. This is a great treat for starophiles and a great way of getting children to get interested in space exploration.

Star selected

Sun selected

Mars is gorgeous yet deadly at dawn. Note, there are actual images of Mars' topography taken by the Mars Rover:

Mars dawn

You can also choose the vastness of the ocean as your vantage point. You can also set the field of view.

Water

A ski resort is also a good choice for enjoying the sky:

Snow

Snow

And the night sky with grid lines displayed:

Grid

Conclusion

Stellarium is a young application. Still, it already shows many exciting, promising features that will surely help it grab wider and wider audience. Stellarium is a great choice for the final frontier fans. It can also help hobbyist astronomers, physics students and seems like an excellent way of getting children hooked into science.

Another project you may want to take a look into is the NASA World Wind.

I would like to thank Searching_ _ _ and PROROOTECT for bringing my attention to these fine programs.

Cheers.

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