Friday, September 29, 2006

Open Source Astronomy Anyone?

Back in the early 90's I remember a friend at university lending me a 3.5" floppy with a piece of MS-DOS software that provided a pseudo planetarium application. You could input your location and it would generate the constellations based on the current date and time. Quite a nifty piece of software. Recently, on the Jak Attack podcast I heard mention of a similar application called Stellarium. It's open-source, and has versions for Linux, OSX and Windows.

I installed it from the Ubuntu repositories and configured it for my location (thank you Google for helping me find my latitude and longitude). What a wonderful application. It works flawlessly on my machine. The interface is very sharp. Although I've only played with it a while, it has lots of options for turning various things on and off (constellations, nebulae, atmosphere, etc..) and you can speed up, slow down, or reverse time while everything in the universe adjusts itself. You can also zoom in on nebulae and planets.

Stellarium also has what I think is one of the nicest looking interfaces I've seen in a while. It's amazing how far planetarium programs have come. And it's even better when you realize it's an open-source project. Very slick.

If you're interested in astronomy, definitely check it out.