The advancing astronomer that is interested in gaining further knowledge to blend with the use of their telescope will discover almost instant gratification in Starry Night software. Created for the PC, Starry Night software provides an entire planetarium to study and learn from the comfort of your desktop. The formations in the sky can be seen in stunning detail with this software, presenting to the observer stars, the moon, galaxies, planets, and even artificial satellites. With several different versions to choose from, there is a program to fit in every exploring astronomer’s budget.
The full package contains a CD-ROM made for the PC, a manual, and an introduction to astronomy book. The Basic version will run around $30. It contains fewer stars than the other versions and spans a shorter time period, but is great for the beginner that is just starting to enter the field of astronomy. The Backyard version, costing in the range of about $50, or $35 if you download it online, is the middle of the line bundle and contains a few additional features. In this version, there are more stars and a longer time period is covered for usage. The Pro version, hitting the wallet at $130 contains enormous star catalogs. It also covers a much longer time span, teaches computer operation for the telescope, admission to online libraries of stars, and several other more advanced features that everyone will enjoy.
Beginners will find the need to explore the manual a little bit before attempting to use the software, whereas advanced astronomers that know enough about astronomy to jump right in can skip most of the instruction. It should be understood though that there are a few features that may not be easily understood without the manual, and a few of the palettes and buttons are difficult to get the gist of without a bit of practice.
Starry Night contains a palette that consists of the planets, the planet’s moons, asteroids, and several more celestial objects. All the user needs to do is click on a name, and the screen will zoom in on the planet, centering it on the screen. If it is locked in place, the orbit and path the planet will be displayed. There is also a fabulous feature that allows the user to move through time, and watch as the orbits of planets and moons change. The software also includes a list of major sky events to access such as limited events like eclipses and solar flares. Amazingly, Starry Night allows the viewer to not only view these occurrences from the Earth, but also gives other perspectives such as a view of the eclipse from the moon.
Starry Night allows the user to upload enhancements from the internet, including new spacecrafts, new comets, and updated orbits. Computer controlled telescopes can also be linked through the computer to Starry Night in order to find or track objects. The appearance of the sky in the Starry Night software can be modified to a night view to help with the adjustment of the eyes, and even change the images in the software to mirror image to mimic the way a telescope reveals images to the eye. Used in conjunction with the telescope or even as a stand alone viewing device, Starry Night software provides a cost-effective and clever way to experience the sky and everything it entails.