I don’t mean to be over dramatic with that title, but early on with Celestia I got super lost in space and it was terrifying… I understand Karl Pilkington’s “loneliest man in the universe” comment now.
Seriously though, once I got my bearings and a hold on the controls, Celestia was (and still is) breathtaking. I typically don’t make a ton of time for this type of thing; I would usually check it out and be done with it; but Celestia wasted my entire morning and it’s about to cut into my night.
I’m not even sure how to begin explaining it… You just need to download and dive in. To put some words to it, the website describes it as “The free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions.”
It’s so much more than that though! So much! The program literally allows you to explore the ENTIRE universe in a number of different ways. Initially, you’ll probably just poke around our solar neighborhood and then slowly inch your way into surrounding and familiar systems (I emphasize “inch” because I totally zipped out of control and was lost on the edge of the galaxy). As you become more familiar with the controls and sheer magnitude of the software’s capabilities, combined with a ton of preloaded recommended destinations to scope out, you’ll find yourself buried in awesome. This is more than an interesting find for the curious mind, it’s a bloody rat trap!
It doesn’t end at simple exploration though… This isn’t an atlas. Celestia operates in a living, moving universe. Planets are spinning and orbiting, meteors are doing their meteor thang, and weather is-a changing on the third rock from the sun. What’s more, you can control the speed at which time passes, opening the doors to ridiculous fun on an entirely different level. It’s very humbling. For example, I zipped out to take a bird’s-eye-view of the Milky Way and sped time up time to see its rotation; at max speed the rotation was barely visible, but when I returned to our solar system, the planets were orbiting so fast they weren’t visible. Just little blips every second or so when the software would allow… an amazing perspective of size, space and time.
The learning curve is a bit steep at first, but there’s awesome tutorials along the way which I strongly encourage you utilize…
Anyway, here’s some more screenshots from my first exploration… don’t even bother looking. Just head over the Celestia site and download this gem for yourself. It’s free and sexy as hell: