Chances are that not very many people have heard of Stellarium although it is very similar to one of the most popular pieces of software available today – Google Earth. While Google’s software allows you to focus on the earth from a starting point in outer space, Stellarium reverses your perspective and places you at any point on the earth’s surface, staring up and out into deep space.
An interesting feature in Stellarium is that as time passes, the virtual star system will evolve, with the sun setting and the various constellations becoming more prominent in the dark night sky. You have a selection of visual effects that you can switch on or off such as the atmosphere, or trace lines for the star systems. Impressive stuff for a few minutes, but once you’ve got the general gist of what Stellarium entails, you’ll quickly tire of zooming out to distant stars and watching as they slowly move across the screen.
While Google Earth brings you detailed photos of our planet’s surface, Stellarium can only achieve a much lower resolution representation of the solar system’s planets, without mentioning the fact that stars are limited to simple white dots zipping through the sky. With over 120,000 stars accurately plotted out in this virtual planetarium, it’s obvious that a lot of work has gone in to its creation. However, Stellarium's excruciating level of detail is likely only to appeal to the real die-hard star gazers.
The idea behind Stellarium is a good one in theory, but when it comes down to it most people will see it as little more than a smart, interactive screensaver. That said, if you have an affinity for astronomy, would like to learn the constellations, or simply enjoy watching beautiful sunsets, then Stellarium is for you.
- You can find the full changelog here: http://stellarium.sourceforge.net/