November 8, 2004

Celestia - Space Simulator

File it under “Why didn’t I hear about this before?” There’s a free space simulator (open source, of course) called Celestia. It runs on a number of modern operating systems, including MacOS and Windows. It allows you to basically fly around the known universe, orbit and track various celestial objects.

For example, you can hover over the surface of Io and peek at Jupiter. Then you can turn back and look at how far away the Sun appears from out there. You may then choose to zoom toward the Sun and turn on orbit tracks, and check out the plane of the planets.

When you get bored with Celestia’s built-in objects, you can download extensions. And if you get bored with the real world, you will notice that some of the extensions are for things like the planets Vulcan and Bajor, a Star Destroyer, the Discovery spacecraft from 2001, and the Babylon 5 space station. That’s what you get when you have an open-source project. The geek movie wars played out on an open range.

But luckily, space is enormous. And that’s one thing this softward definitely drives home. When you’re zooming out from the Hubble spacecraft, you notice that the Earth barely changes in size before the Hubble completely disappears. Same thing with other moons satellites. There are a lot of large objects out there with a lot of emptyness in between, and a lot of perspective.

Posted by James at November 8, 2004 11:59 AM
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