Starry Night Deluxe
Company: Sienna Software, Inc.
Estimated Price: $89.95
Like most members of this planet, my face was glued to the television during the Mars Pathfinder mission landing. While I was at the tube, my dad was surfing CNN Online and downloading the live pictures. Soon, we had a Zip disk full of JPEGs and a brain full of red. What’s next? Well, take the telescope out and look at it with your own two eyes! But, where is it? Finding Mars (or any other object in the sky) is quite easy for us… My dad wrote a book on astronomy. But not everyone’s dad is “The Light-Hearted Astronomer,” and not everyone can find Mars on their own… And that’s where “Starry Night Deluxe” comes in.
“Starry Night Deluxe” is a star-chart with a few twists… Cool twists. It’s a star chart, a planetary tracker, a messier finder, a comet chaser, a educational tool, and an enjoyable toy all at once. With “Starry Night Deluxe,” you get a complete, up-to-date, real-time star chart with over 19 million celestial objects, to be exact. Whether you are looking for globular clusters, double stars, Jupiter’s moons, galaxies, or almost any other celestial object, you can easily find out where to point your telescope. Or, if you have the popular LX-200 telescope, you can have the program point for you. Too cool.
To get the star chart to appear right, you need only set the Map control panel and your correct time. Launch the program, and you have a real-time star chart staring back at you. Real-time in that it updates itself to accommodate for the earth’s rotation, planetary motion, etc. To navigate you need only use the mouse to point, click, and drag the screen to see other directions. You can zoom in on basically any celestial object you choose. Get a close-up view of Saturn and see its rings and its moons in their current orbit. The zooming feature is one of the program’s best. The only thing that beats the zoom is the find. With a few simple steps, you can have it locate and zoom in on any object you choose. Want to take your telescope out and look at that object again later but don’t have a PowerBook to lug down with you (let alone a red tinted screen cover to protect your night vision)? No problem! You can print out the star charts and cruise out with your scope and view the universe for hours upon hours.
“Starry Night Deluxe” is a toy as much as it is a tool. You can float in space at a chosen distance from an object and watch its movements, orbit, etc. This is a great feature for those who love to look for moon occultations or planetary features. You can also view the sky from the eyes of one who would live on a specific planet or object. See what earth looks like from Pluto or watch an eclipse as it happens!
Some of the best features are some of the simplest. You can make QuickTime movies of your explorations and save them on your hard disk. Plus, with multiple windows open, you can easily view a certain object or event from many different points of the universe. The program itself is very customizable, so you can spend a few minutes fine-tuning your experience. You can set literally everything to suit your needs.
Due to the nature of the program, speed will likely be a small problem for users of older machines. PowerPC machines will handle “Starry Night” nicely, but my older 75MHz Performa would come to a halt while loading planets and detailed graphics. And with your monitor set to thousands or millions of colors, you get a nice graphical trip of the solar system, although millions of colors shows the best detail. Still, graphics are nice, although some seem more “computerized” than others, meaning they have a less detailed look to them with a more blocky appearance.
“Starry Night Deluxe” would be a great companion for almost any astronomer. It’s easy to use, solid, stable, and complete. It takes some learning, but once you get the hang of it, it can be a great star gazing tool. Join the space craze! Space is fun… And now it’s easier to use.
Color Mac with 8MB RAM, System 7 or higher, and CD-ROM drive. PowerPC or 68K versions included in release.
Note: You can download the basic shareware version from Sienna’s web site, listed below.
Shay Fulton (firstname.lastname@example.org)