Check out Stellarium

I’ve had a passing interest in astronomy over the years, but have mostly been disappointed. There’s a lot of light pollution here in the city, and the meteor showers are either on cold nights or it is cloudy. I did enjoy a near lunar eclipse in high school and the comets in 1998 were awesome.

I’ve played with some of those rotating disc maps over the years and never really got them to match up with what I was seeing. I’ve also played with some really neat astronomy simulation programs over the years, but the timing was never right.

Last week, I found Stellarium a multi-platform easy-to-use program. Since it was availble in OS X, I loaded it on my laptop and waited for a clear night. I only got to play with it for 20 minutes or so, but the experience was excellent! It was so smooth to whip it around, adjust the magnitudes to match what I could see, and spot things in the sky that I had only read about in science fiction. I found the star Vega, planet Jupiter, several constellations, and the North Star (Polaris). Polaris was not exactly were I expected it to be based on what I learned as a boy scout, but it was close enough that I could have found my way if I had to rely on it.

I also like setting the clock forward and watching the stars spin. I now understand the “ecliptic,” which was always a mystery to me before.

So check it out sometime. It loaded and unloaded very cleanly from my system and I highly recommend it.

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