Men has been looking to the stars right from the beginning of time, and this tradition is still very much alive in our modern world, although for slightly changed reasons. Still, the fascination is very much alive and it is only natural that computers come to our aid to assist us in our desire to explore space.
After the download of Stellarium finishes (Windows, Mac and Linux version available) you may start the application to take a first look at the star map it makes available. I took a look from Paris, not sure if this is the default for everyone though. The name of the stars that were displayed to me were shown in 360° around the fixed position.
You may change the location from where you are looking at the sky to almost any place on earth. Switching to the United States for instance changed the beautiful morning in Paris to a great view of the night sky in that region of the world. Additional information like nebula, grids and constellations can be added to the view with the click of the mouse button.
Stellarium is a fantastic application that lets you explore the stars and learn about them at the same time,but also by displaying beautiful images. Great for everyone with even a slight interested in astronomy.
The computer planetarium has been updated throughout the years and ships with impressive features as of August 2012. This includes a default catalog of over 600,000 stars, and an extra catalog with another 210 million stars. It offers realistic atmosphere, sunrise and sunsets, constellations for twelve different cultures and illustrations of important constellations.
On the technical side of things, you get a powerful zooming feature, an interface that is available in multiple languages, telescope control, and extensive keyboard support.
New visualizations have been added by the developers, so that you can now add shooting stars to the sky, simulate supernovas or simulate eclipses. You can now also make use of the built-in plugin system to add features to the program.
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