Overall Design: 4.9
Ease of Use: 4.8
(4.0 = good, 4.5 = very
good, 5.0 = excellent)
Program Description What Others Have Said Who Is This Program For
Why We Selected This Program Computer Requirements
Starry Night is a versatile, comprehensive and very interactive software program that allows you to navigate around our solar system and beyond as a way of understanding and learning the basics of astronomy.
Once you launch Starry Night, you can view the constellations from any location on earth by simply selecting the desirable latitude and longitude (i.e. where you live). The sky above, as viewed on the screen, appears exactly as it would at the selected location at the date and time specified. In fact, the program has the ability to view the sky from different points in time, both in the past and in the future as well as from different angles, (i.e. altitudes from 0 to 90 degrees), directions, and vantage points.
Pausing the cursor over any star will identify it by name on screen, reveal the constellation it is found in, and show its distance from Earth in light years. On a few occasions while using the program late at night, I stepped away from the computer and walked outside the front door to observe an identical view of the sky above, immediately reinforcing what was just learned. Likewise, one can gaze outside at the stars overhead and then return to the computer screen to click away and obtain information on what was just seen. By simulating a changeable viewpoint of the sky so realistically, it is a nice replacement for the more timeworn tactic of using sky charts to locate astronomical objects.
For Astronomy buffs who have the misfortune of living in a heavily light-polluted environment, the program has the flexibility of adjusting the level of ambient light pollution to either simulate local conditions or improve the view usually seen. (i.e. What you are missing)
If a view of the heavens from a location on Earth is too mundane, one can enjoy a view of the constellations from the surface of the moon instead. Other perspectives are also available, from various locations around the solar system.
The program also reveals how seasons on Earth are produced, by offering a perspective that clearly demonstrates the Earths position relative to the sun coupled with its tilt as it revolves. One can also observe realistic simulations of lunar and solar eclipses. The movement of comets, asteroids and planets can additionally be selected.
Starry Night can be explored two different ways; one way is to just start pulling down various menus and begin clicking away, uncovering one interesting application after another. As an alternative, one can follow along with the helpful Starry Night Companion - an easy to read guide that accompanies the program. The guide (approximately 200 pages of readable text and illustrations), provides a helpful background explanation of the concepts in addition to tips of how to navigate through the many different applications.
I have quickly highlighted just some of the applications available, but many other interesting features that describe the movement and history of celestial objects can be discovered, particularly in conjunction with the accompanying guide.
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The Orion Constellation
View From The Moon
"Starry Night is a beautifully constructed desktop planetarium that is easy to learn."
- The New York Times.
"The more I used this program, the more I liked it. Of all the astronomy programs I've tried I consider Starry Night the most powerful, most elegant and most pleasing to use."
-Jim Kendrick, SkyNews
Starry Night is a well-organized program that is easy to learn without the aid of any of the supplied manuals. The details and options that are included in Starry Night are absolutely phenomenal. Being able to view the night sky from anywhere in the universe (even the Sun!), changing the light pollution, and details such as the Mars probe put this program above all others. Starry Night allows you to travel throughout space in just a few seconds, seeing all of the stars, constellations, planets, and galaxies. If you werent interested in astronomy before, you will be after you try this program.
- Rory O'Connell, Grade 11, Crescent School, Toronto Ontario
"Starry Night is a superb program. In its screen representation of the night sky, it is without peer. The seamless integration of photographs of Messier objects in computer generated star fields, and the realism of those star fields, is a work of genius. The speed and smoothness of its engine are incredible. Intuitive, and with wide-ranging tools and features, this program is the next best thing to actually going out and observing. I love it."
-Astronomy & Space
"Starry Night is the closest you can come to space travel without a heavy suit and a lot of training."
"Starry Night is effortless astronomy software that lets you go anywhere in the solar system. Watch an eclipse from a planet, its moon and the Sun, all at the same time. Recommended."
Starry Night is ideal for anyone interested in amateur astronomy, from a novice of about 12 years old and up. Essentially, any person who enjoys looking at the night sky and wants more information about what the celestial objects overhead are, and how or why they move, would benefit from the program. It would serve as a nice supplementary resource for students studying Astronomy at the high school level (for example in the new Ontario grade 9 Science curriculum) or even in an introductory university course.
This software is also ideal for teachers who want a realistic substitute of the night sky that students could work with in the classroom during the day. It is a great way to reinforce concepts learned in a textbook.
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The three dimensional images of the planets moving around the sun give you a marvellous sense of the dynamics of our galaxy. Also the ability to see our galaxy from perspectives other than from the earth is very interesting. Ever wonder what a sunset looks like from Mars or what it would be like to hitch a ride on a comet?
If you want to find a specific planet, just type the name, and the program takes you across the night skies and slowly zooms in on the planet you have selected, so you get a real sense of where this planet is, in the night sky. Just by clicking and dragging and zooming in and out, you can easily guide yourself around the galaxy. Among the alternate astronomy programs we have seen, this is by far the most sophisticated program of it's kind we have seen. The blessing is that it is also easy to learn how to use.
Of course, there is nothing like viewing the night sky late on a clear evening, far away from the lights of a city. Unfortunately, this situation doesnt readily present itself when one is teaching Astronomy to students in a classroom during the day. Starry Night is an ideal program for students to utilize in the absence of genuine star-gazing or as a very useful learning complement as you look at the night skies.
We are planning to use it for our grade 9 Science program, so that students could work with it over an extended period of time, then have an opportunity to compare it to real sky conditions for reinforcement.
Reviewed by Greg Michalski, Science teacher, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
Pricing and Online Ordering
(or call toll free -1-800-250-9229 )
WindowsTM: PC with a PentiumTM or higher processor, color monitor, CD-ROM drive and Windows 95/98/ME/2000 or Windows NTTM 4.0 or later. Requires 24MB RAM and 50-75MB of hard disk space.
MacintoshTM: PowerPCTM or better, color monitor, CD-ROM drive and System 7.5 or later. Requires 24MB RAM and 50-75MB of hard disk space.
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or to see other science programmes
My Amazing Human Body - ages 5-10
Magic School Bus Explores Bugs - ages 4-9
Zoology Zone - Raptors/Spiders/Bears - ages 6 -9 (see video clips)
The New Way Things Work - ages 8 - 15
Pinball Science - ages 9-15
Field Trip To The Rainforest - ages 9 - 16
Deep Space Explorer - ages 12 & up
Science Matrix (cell biology) - ages 12 & up