You’ve seen the Google Earth images on television news. The ability to zoom from space to the house next door is stunning.
It’s always fun to zoom down to your block to see if you can find someone you know. I found my parent’s car and our neighbor’s garage.
What if you go the other way? Out to the solar system, the stars, the galaxy. Use Celestia on your Mac and you have not only the world, but the universe, too. Mostly.
Celestia is a free (hey, it’s a review from me, the Value Vixen™ so what would you expect?) application which lets you explore the universe, as much as we know of it, in three dimensions, right on your Mac.
Unlike Google Earth, Celestia doesn’t stick you on the earth, it sets you free; as if you’re traveling in space in your own invisible space ship, able to move light years in mere seconds. Visit our solar system and see planets and asteroids up close.
Zoom through the rings of Saturn and view each one close up and change angles as if your space ship were examining the rocks from every angle. Bored with the solar system?
Move to any of over 100,000 stars (many of which, sadly, look pretty much the same from a distance), and venture into unknown space beyond the Milky Way (our galaxy, not a candy bar).
Celestia on your Mac moves smoothly and effortlessly, and sometimes quickly, between celestial objects. Celestia’s interface works well, but is a bit klunky.
The Point and Go To interface lets you type in a destination and your visual spacecraft takes you there, full screen on your Mac, if you like. You’re in charge. Select a location from the list and go. Your screen zooms smoothly, sometimes faster than light (that sounds impossible on a screen emitting light, but that’s how it works).
Celestia installs drag and drop on your Mac. A note of caution: do not read the installation instruction for UNIX, otherwise you’ll go blind and give birth to worms. Or worse.
There are stars, nearby galaxies (yes, ‘nearby’ is a relative term—after all, it’s just a few inches on your Mac’s screen), asteroids, and my favorite, comets. The spacecraft look about as good as spacecraft did in the original Star Trek series, so don’t judge Celestia by those images.
The Celestia Motherlode is where Mac users go to find add ons to make your travels through space even more interesting.
All the major planets have add ons, except Pluto, which, sadly, was demoted to Far Away Rock status.
There are deep space objects such as Nebulae and Galaxies and Jessica Simpson. Some elements from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Star Trek can be added, too. The Enterprise is everywhere you want to be.
The Motherlode has 10 gigabytes of additional celestial phenomenon to stuff into Celestia. In a word, traveling through space using your Mac and Celestia is stunning, and puts Google Earth to shame.
Slowly moving my Mac’s view of Saturn around and through the rings is a visual feast, a delight. One thing I noticed was how much distance there is between objects in space. No, not Jessica Simpson’s ears—real space. Outer space.
Celestia is stunning, beautiful, awe inspiring and free. What else could you ask for?