Sep 20, 2008

Travelling through the Universe with Celestia Space Simulator

A view of Earth from far out in space. Source: Celestia

Are you interested in astronomy, the solar system, and space? Would you like to fly through the universe and observe our blue planet, the Moon, or the Milky Way from the outside? Then this free software application might be very interesting for you: Celestia is a 3D space simulator that runs on your Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux computer.

Looking down at Mars's tiny moon Phobos and the giant Valles Marineris rift valley. Source: Celestia

It contains almost 120,000 star positions collected by European Space Agency’s Hipparcos Space Astrometry Mission. It contains moons, asteroids, and even spacecraft, including their orbital paths, just to name a few. It can animate the constellations in real time as well as simulate object movements with much faster or slower velocity. Furthermore, additional information about these objects, craters, landing sites, observatories, etc. can also be displayed.

The orbits of a number of main belt asteroids (in brown) plotted togeter with major planet orbits (in blue). Source: Celestia

The software is open source, therefore many add-ons like high-detail textures for planets, satellites and their orbits, spacecraft, or animations are available. Anybody with programming skills can download the source code and further develop the software; even NASA and ESA use Celestia for creating animations, for Mars Express, for example.

So have a look at, try out the software, and let us know what you think about it! And many thanks to the developers of this great simulator!

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mike fabio said...

I love Celestia (even blogged about it a while back at The Launch Pad).

There's also a ton of great user generated content for it, including flight trajectories of various spacecraft.

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