Touring the galaxy with Celestia


Article from Issue 58/2005

Space, the final frontier, is a bit too expensive for a short vacation. If a trip to the moon is beyond your budget, why not try Celestia, a free program that brings the galaxy to the comfort of your home.

Hover above the ISS space station watching the earth slowly rotate below you. Be an eye witness as the Cassini probe passes the rings of Sat urn. Visit the outer limits of the galaxy, or pay a visit to Klingon territory (Figure 1). Celestia will take you there! Touring Tool Chris Laurel developed Celestia [1] in 2001 to traverse and explore the galaxy in 3D. In the years that followed, count less volunteers on the Internet have helped to enhance Celestia. Now, Celes tia is one of those rare examples of a program that is not only valuable from an educational point of view, but is entertaining at the same time. Celestia really is fun, and it just keeps on grow ing. The standard package comes with a huge collection of space objects, and you can add additional probes, remote solar systems, and alien space ships, simply by downloading add-ons off the web. Among other things, the complete space fleet from 2001 -- A Space Odyssey is available as a download. Advanced users can design their own planets and fictional solar systems. You can use Celestia for classroom work or work out routes through the galaxy that you can then replay in demo mode.

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