This morning I discovered a beautiful piece of freeware and since I finished work I have been playing around with it.No adverts, no nonsense – just great.
It is called Stellarium and it is an astronomy program. It is really easy to use.
You only have to enter which city you are in and work out which way is north, south etc and you get a sky map with all the stars, their names, distances and other information. All the planets and stars move in “real” time so you can follow them and predict them on your screen while you look at them out your window. This is wonderful if like me, you can’t afford a telescope and live somewhere with too much pollution to get the best out of just looking out the window.
You can also put it on pause so you can take a proper look at the various things too. There is a switch to turn off light pollution so that even in the day you can see where everything is (see screenshot below)…
The “starlore” function allows you to get the info on the mythology surrounding different constellations and includes the mythologies from Chinese, Western, Sami, Korean, Navajo, Aztec, Egyptian, Lakota, Maori and other cultures.
You can set it to look like the actual sky or sumperimpose constellation lines or the mythological pictures too. All the genuine scientific and astronomical information is there on top left of screen with distances etc.
I am LIKE-A-KID-IN-A-SWEET-SHOP.
I have listened to every astronomy lecture I could get my hands on for years but have never had access to a telescope. I hope I know quite a lot about the subject but still have problems pointing at the sky and saying “that one is _______ and that one is ______”. I get it right sometimes but others no.
With this thing it is possible for anyone, lectures or not, to find a simple point of reference and for the first time in your life you can go out and do what our ancestors did every night and name it.
However, unlike our ancestors, you can also say what is made of and how far away it is.
Have a go and fiddle about with it for an hour. Just brilliant.