Unless you are a millionaire or an astronaut, space travel is probably out of reach. Bring it a little closer to home with Celestia.
Celestia is a real-time, 3D space simulator that lets you fly around galaxies, checking out all the fascinating things they contain - from planets and stars to asteroids and space stations. It may only be a simulation, but, unless you win the lottery, it is probably the closest you're going to get to the real thing.
For free software, Celestia is extremely complete. It has a wealth of demos, online and offline user guides, a wiki, a forum and even a Wikipedia entry! It is just as well that all this help is available, however, because it is not a particularly easy program to use. In theory, you navigate around the universe by using the mouse or the keyboard. Right-clicking on an object (such as a planet) will bring up various options, while in the tool bar you can perform more complex tasks, such as searching for Bayer designations, taking videos, tracking objects and configuring options. Although all that sounds pretty normal, it is not as easy as it seems.
I found the controls to be jerky and non-intuitive, and despite spending a fair amount of time playing around with it, didn't manage to get it working as well as I suspect it can. Briefly reading the manuals didn't help either, and I think that to get the most out of Celestia, you would have to put some serious research in.
Astronomy fans and those with a burning interest in our galaxy will surely make the effort that is needed to really get the most out of Celestia. The program definitely encourages serious dedication and obviously has been created by a person - Chris Laurel - who loves what he does. Celestia is meticulously researched and put together, and there is a multitude of extra resources on the website.
Celestia: a beautiful and fascinating program for those willing to make the effort.
- contains bugs fixes
- new and more complete translations
- updated data files (including new exoplanet discoveries)