Celestia is a 3D astronomy software based on the Hipparcos Catalogue (HIP) [European space agency launched a mission on the accurate measurement of the positions of celestial objects on the sky, Hipparcos a satellite was used as a part of this mission.]. It allows users to travel through an extensive universe, at any speed, in any direction & at any time in history.

Earth from Space
A view of Earth from far out in space.

There are objects ranging in scale from small spacecraft to entire galaxies in three dimensions using OpenGL. When compared with the impact of the planetarium software – Celestia not just shows the sky as it can be seen from earth but also to move & view the universe from any point between the planets and the stars!! So it is a space travel experience from you machine.

Supported Platforms: – Linux (32-bit version is provided in the autopackage format. It should run on any distribution that has OpenGL and GTK+ 2.6.), Windows (self-extracting archive), OSX (disk image). Download Celestia here.

Mar's's Tiny Moon
Looking down at Mars’s tiny moon

 

MotherLoad:

This is a repository for various add-ons of Celestia viz. textures, models, celestial objects, etc. The Celestia Motherload hosts over 10 GB of Celestia addons by various creators, which extend or change the way Celestia renders the universe.

A Vast number of add-ons are available through this community.  The extension mechanism uses ‘Lua’ as its built-in scripting language.

Some of the key type of add-ons:

–          High resolution surface textures for the close view of the objects.

–          3D models of historic and existing spacecrafts(sputnik 1,voyager 2, Hubble telescope, etc) .

–          Deep Sky Objects & catalogue of comets, asteroids, etc.

–          Fictional add-ons(objects from 2001- a space odyssey, Star wars – e.g. station V, Tatooine, Endor etc)

–          Educational packages

Jupiter and Europa
Jupiter and its large moon Europa

 

Features:

–          A catalogue of more than 100,000 stars is available.

–          Users can travel through universe using simple keyboard controls

–          The time simulated by Celestia can be set at any point in the future or past

–          Exciting features for on planet experience – e.g. detailed atmospheres on planets and moons, sunsets and sun rise etc.

–          Object information – radius, distance, luminosity (relative to Sun), surface temperature, etc.

–          Graphic screen-shots and movies can be captured in classic or HD resolutions.

Some FAQS on Celestia.

Planet Rho Cancri e
The recently discovered extrasolar planet Rho Cancri e

Limitations:

Celestia is also said to have the following limitations:

–          Type of astronomical objects excluded from Celestia – variable stars, black hole, etc.

–          Binary star simulation has accuracy limitation as adequate orbital details are not yet available.

–          Wobbling of some stars is not accounted for.

–          low Earth orbit satellites to appear to be in the wrong places in the sky when watched from Celestia’s ground.

Orbits of Belt Asteroids
The orbits of a number of main belt asteroids

A comparison with softwares like Stellarium and Cybersky by a leading website Softonic clearly indicates that Celestia is the most favoured open source astronomy software and offers real-time space exploration on your computer. 

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