Celestia is free space 3D astronomy and simulation software that runs on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X. Celestia version 1.5.0 was just released on January 26. The program allows you to travel through the universe at any speed, in any direction and at any point in time. It displays and interacts with objects such as satellites and galaxies. The program uses OpenGL and is released under the GNU General Public License.

Celestia uses the Hipparcos catalog of 120,000 stars (a product of the European Space Agency) and the VSOP87 theory of planetary orbits. The program does not use any stars more than 16,000 light years form the Sun. About 15 gb of extensions are available and it is highly customizable. For a nice overview of the wealth of the program, see this link in Wikipedia.

I noticed the new version was out though I haven’t downloaded it yet. I still have 1.4.1 on my PC. It struck me though that I should mention this program. It is absolutely awesome software if you are interested in astronomy. It does take up a bit of disk space, especially with extensions. You can even output your travels to an avi file. It is a great way to kill some time, see some beautiful pictures and maybe even learn something along the way.

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A view of Earth from far out in space.                                      A closeup of the space shuttle Discovery in orbit over Florida.
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Mars’s tiny moon Phobos. 1989 flyby of Neptune by Voyager 2.
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Saturn and its rings. Jupiter and its large moon Europa. 
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Extra solar planet Rho Cancri e. Orbits of main belt asteroids (in brown) major planet orbits (in blue).
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