If you like to... nah, I'm just kidding. I thought I 'd simulate some other writer's 'style' just for laughs, but then I thought to myself that it wouldn't be nice of me. Speaking of simulations, Stellarium is a one of the most well known astronomical observatory simulators. I'm sure that everybody has used it at some point in time, if not for serious reasons then at least to play around with its many features.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of witnessing the mighty Black Sun bestowing its power for breaking the vale of illusion that our society has fallen under... or what has been more commonly called the Eclipse of August 21st 2017.
This event made me itchy to install Stellarium again. I have used it sparingly throughout the years, and I found it a great tool for satisfying fleeting astronomical curiosities. Of course, I have also used it to spot stars and planets in the effort of photographing them. That is essentially what Stellarium is best at.
The main view window can be customized in many ways, but the basic set-up features an artificial horizon, complete with a 360 country side view and cardinal points to help you keep track of your orientation. The Atmosphere effect is also nice but its generally useless, as it obstructs the really interesting part - the stars and galaxies. So you should keep it turned off most of the time.
Stellarium can show everything from far away galaxies to "Possible Quasars" and "Protoplanetary Nebulae". I'm personally not very interested in studying these exo-solar system phenomenons, since I'm sure they won't make an appearance in the fourth edition of Twilight Imperium (google it), but students of astrology might find them fascinating!
In any case, you have plenty of control over what you can see an how. Stellarium can display the sky from any point on Earth and can simulate the passage of time. Therefore, you can use it to go back and see what stars and planets were above when Napoleon Bonaparte was born. You can then use that data to impress your history teacher or to... say, conceive your future child.
Stellarium comes with a huge catalogue of celestial objects, but there are also more availble via plug-ins. Plug-ins are also not limited to boring star catalogues. There are plug-ins for additional landscapes, ocular simulators, telescope controls, demo scripts and more. This application is receiving a lot of support and community contributions. In this respect, you can rest assured that any troubleshooting is covered.
- Realistic sky simulation
- Expandable object catalogue (600k+ stars)
- Visual representation of galaxies and other impressive stuff
- Constellation art
- Eclipse simulation (cool corona effect when viewing a total eclipse)
- Ocular and telescope simulations
I can't say that Stellarium is the best of its kind out there. That because I never used anything else. But the general interest that this software is getting is enough to keep me disinterested in others. Besides, the visuals are very good and the technical part is very well implemented.