The years come and go, dear Mac users. Some are more memorable than others. 2009 is gone, a new decade is here. Little Jeffy’s wonderful wife closed out the last decade with a memorable gift.
A telescope. And it works with my Mac. Now all I need is a very tall mountain from which to track those stars, planets, and comets. For the Mac user without such a lovely, gift-giving wife, and the aforementioned gift, I present to you SkyORB 3D, what your Mac would be if it was a planetarium.
Planet Viewing Without A Telescope
SkyORB 3D is, well, it’s planetarium software, bringing to your Mac’s screen all those things you see in the sky but didn’t know what they were.
Seriously, your Mac’s screen becomes a digital planetarium.
With a few clicks you have the option to view the positions of the sun, stars, moons, planets, comets and other heavenly bodies (no, not those heavenly bodies) from the relative safety, convenience, and beverage availability of your Mac.
Even better, SkyORB 3D brings the whole shebang to you in 3D rendering. Track lunar eclipse events, solstices, and equinoxes as if you were in the perfect south Pacific location.
SkyORB 3D gives you two interfaces. The initial setup and use is an absolute breeze. Check the images below. Note the translucent controls in the upper left corner. That’s the easy version (click on an image for a larger pop up view).
Navigating is ultra easy, too. Simply click and hold on the image, then drag left or right, up or down. The viewing angle of the image changes accordingly. What a great way to see the back side of the sun.
Search functions are straightforward, though cumbersome. Click the search icon. Enter your search term. In this case I entered Jupiter. Voila! Move Jupiter with your mouse pointer to get a look at the giant red spot.
Is that cool, or what? As good as my telescope is, it’ll never give me planetarium quality images like that.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
You can devote hours clicking away at various heavenly bodies (with no monthly recurring fee charged to credit card) using your Mac and never leave home.
The good is easy. SkyORB 3D is free. It runs on Mac OS X and Windows PCs.
The bad is the totally unintuitive interface. While the icons and default configuration gets you some visual mileage, figuring out what everything else does is a challenge.
What about the ugly? Configuring anything beyond the default. Truly, scientists who peer into the sky all day and all night, have no social lives, and have minimal human interaction were instrumental in creating SkyORB 3D. The wonders of the universe are there. They’re beautiful. But you’ll work to get beyond the basics.