I just finished testing Celestia, a space simulation program, and boy do I feel small and insignificant!
Did you ever wish that you could fly through space? Take a closer look at the celestial bodies that majestically occupy our universe? From the surreal rings of Saturn to the minute detail of an impact creator on the surface of some moon, this week’s download will not only take you there, but you’ll be arriving in style.
Celestia is a real time space exploration program that allows a user to fly through the universe viewing anything they want in stunning detail that rivals that of a Hollywood production. You can select planets, moons or anything in the solar system, for that matter, and pivot, spin and zoom in and out, all with a few mouse clicks or keyboard strokes.
Celestia is an unbelievable training aid for anyone interested in learning more about the universe we live in. The creators of Celestia have gone to great effort to keep the program scientifically accurate so that you, the user, get an authentic real to life experience.
Add Ons 
Although Celestia is a terrific program on its own, I believe the thing that pushes it over the top is its add ons, which are additional programs you can pick ala-carte to download and install from some of their support sites. These add ons range from awesome educational tours through space to new content, such as new planets and even spacecrafts. Of course, they also have Star Trek and Star Wars add ons to add validity to the whole thing. These are the real meat and potatoes of the program, in my opinion. User created models that really add life to your Celestia install.
Celestia can take a little time to get the hang of, but you usually find that with more robust programs. Luckily, however, the site has some great resources that you can use to help you figure out any aspect of the program and how to use it.
Manual: There is a comprehensive manual you can download that will discuss all the ins and outs of the program. Things like how to navigate through the solar system, how to change settings and how to use the tools in order to better command your experience. Those are but a few of the things discussed in the manual. There is even a “Getting Started” guide that will help you get ahold of the program’s concept a little better and gain a better understanding of what exactly to expect for in Celestia.
Forum: They have over 4,600 members on their message board, which covers almost every imaginable topic under the sun. If you need help with an add on, come out here. If you would like to see how to use this as an educational tool, go to the forum. If you don’t see a posting for something you’re interested in, simply start a new thread and someone will answer you shortly.
- Learn the unbelievable size and magnitude of our universe firsthand with a journey from the surface of Earth to the farthest reaches of our observable universe and do it at hyperspeed.
- Take up station on our mighty sun and watch solar flares rising off the surface in motion or count its sunspots as you measure its rotational period.
- Hover over each of the planets in our solar system as they rotate slowly below you. See clouds drift by (where applicable) and shadows being cast on mountains and craters as the sun sets low.
- Fly along with Mariner 10 on its historic fly by of Mercury.
- Visit the searing surface of Venus and view it in a panoramic 360 degree vista from the surface.
- Take a spin down to the Earth’s surface in your own hyperdrive spacecraft. Skim over the oceans of Earth as you fly below the clouds. Soar back into space to see the lights come on in the cities of Earth.
- Be present as Apollo 11 lands on the moon in 1969 or drop by Sputnik 1 in 1958 shortly after its launch.
- Journey from the Earth’s surface up to rendezvous with the International Space Station or the Hubble Space Telescope as they orbit Earth every 90 minutes. Attempt a difficult docking at the ISS Shuttle port.
- Discover Mir as it passes over the Russian homeland with its cosmonaut crew onboard.
- Hover over Mar’s Gusev crater and Meridiani Planum and drop down to the surface to visit Spirit and Opportunity at their landing sites, then fly over to Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris and fly through the canyon on a virtual fly by.
- Be there in 2004 when asteroid 2004 FH misses a direct collision with Earth by a hair’s breath. Stand watch in the year 2029 when a new asteroid will approach Earth on a possible collision path.
- Observe a spectacular lunar eclipse of our own moon and a total solar eclipse on Earth.
- Position yourself above Jupiter and watch as its large moons drift across the face of the planet, casting multiple eclipse shadows on its banded clouds and Great Red Spot.
- Examine the volcanoes on Jupiter’s very active moon as you pass above it.
- Hover far beyond Saturn, speed up time and count its many moons revolving around its magnificent ringed body like pearls swirling on an invisible necklace.
- Be there when the spacecraft Cassini arrives in Saturn space in 2004 and drops the Huygens probe into the atmosphere of Titan in January 2005. Follow Huygens down to a parachute landing on Titan’s surface.
- Engage in a dangerous maneuver and plunge through Saturn’s rings in the Celestia spaceship.
- Journey to the frozen wasteland of Pluto and its three moons and see their icy coldness for yourself.
- Take up station behind comet Halley in 1986 as its gaseous lavender tail streams out behind it near Earth.
- Seek out Planet 10, Sedna and Quaoar, Kuiper Belt objects that are our Solar System’s newest “planets.”
- Fly out to the edges of our Solar System and follow Voyagers 1 and 2 as they speed away from their creators back on Earth, headed on a one-way journey to distant stars.
- Experience a rendezvous with and fly by of the speeding asteroid, Gaspra.
- Witness the impact of the Deep Impact spacecraft onto the surface of comet Tempel 1 in July 2005.
- Travel forward in time to the year 3000 CE to be there as giant mirrors melt the Martian polar ice caps and help to terraform Mars into a verdant world of water, plants and cities of the future.
- Set your ship at a faster-than-light speed and sail to Rigel Kentaurus A, located 4.3 light years away.
- Travel far into the future and rendezvous with a colossal rotating Space Station as it orbits Earth.
- Journey to the edges of a massive rotating Black Hole as it spins near its stellar companion. Witness another Black Hole swallowing its companion star.
- Travel to the heart of Betelgeuse, a distant Red Supergiant star that will Hypernova someday.
- See stellar creations from deep within the Rosette and Eagle Nebulas, giant stellar nurseries.
- Observe for yourself the deep field galaxies that were photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
- Count the pulses of the new pulsar in the Crab Nebula, spinning before you at over 30 times a second.
- Contemplate the future and witness the end of Earth, as it is swallowed by our swelling Red Giant sun billions of years from now.
- Jump at hyperspeed beyond our Milky Way and cruise on over to the Andromeda spiral galaxy, M 87 located in the rich Virgo Cluster or the beautiful Whirlpool galaxy or visit over ten thousand galaxies, accurately drawn.
- Be witness to the future of space travel as you cruise next to Cosmos, a revolutionary new spacecraft that may someday “sail” on a wind of pure sunlight (it has no engines).
- Travel backward in time four billion years to witness the planet “Orpheus” catastrophically collide with Earth to actually form our moon.
- Learn what efforts are being taken to discover if extraterrestrial intelligence exists in the universe.
- Travel in tandem with the USS Enterprise commanded by Captain Picard, as it battles the Borg Empire.
- Travel in the whimsical world of Hollywood and visit the Star Wars® worlds of Tatooine, Endor and Hoth. Fly next to the Imperial Death Star or Star Destroyer as the Millennium Falcon swoops in for an attack.
- Explore over 20 different fictional solar systems, many complete with meticulously detailed, exotic alien civilizations, terraformed moons, futuristic space stations, entire space fleets, wormholes and interstellar extraterrestrial spacecraft.
If you are interested in downloading this fantastic program, you may want to look over the system requirements, especially if your PC is over three years old. Things just might not work right.
You can get your copy of Celestia now and join the over 2.7 million people in over 25 countries traversing our solar system.
You can download Celestia here.
Hope you enjoy!
~ Chad Stelnicki