Focus – Redshift 6 Premium Edition review

comprehensive astronomy package
Photo of Focus – Redshift 6 Premium Edition

Astronomers. What winds them up? Is it people who don’t believe in the power of the stars? Those who aren’t open-minded enough to recognise that there could be a correlation between your time of birth and the energy of the planets? Or is it people who confuse the terms ‘astrologer’ and ‘astronomer’? Very probably. We expect many a keen young amateur astronomer has been seriously perplexed at Christmas by a well-meaning aunt’s gift of Russell Grant’s latest horoscope book.

The content within this Premium Edition of the Redshift astronomy package is extensive, but you’d expect it to be when parting with a hundred pounds (something Russell could stand to lose as well). Fortunately you’re not completely swamped initially, as there’s an introductory help panel featuring videos and step-by-step demonstrations of the product’s many features (not to mention a 250-page instruction manual if you want more detailed help).

The program is built around the “sky window”, the central view of the night sky that shows the stars and planets, which you can pan the camera around, zoom into distant bodies, or indeed travel back (or forwards) in time to when major astronomical events occurred. This is, of course, fairly standard stuff that we’d expect from such a package, and graphically it’s a touch underwhelming. Zooming into Jupiter, the visual experience is closer to functional than wowing.

However, it’s not fancy graphics but accuracy and information that are paramount here. Clicking on a planet, you can quickly access data on its measurements, a full description of its composition and history, along with photos and interesting bits of trivia. An impressive level of detail is provided here: should you want to know the strength of the magnetic field at Jupiter’s equator, you can find out.

To aid in planning a night’s viewing, a sky diary function is included which lists the events visible from the observer’s location in any given month, from meteor showers to eclipses. Hot-links are provided to a dictionary of astronomy which contains thorough descriptions of these various phenomena, alongside a wealth of photos (many of which are high quality affairs).

Plenty of video is provided too. There are Quicktime films on how the universe began and the solar system formed, plus various lectures on the planets, stars and galaxies. Guided tours, which are narrated animations that use the sky window, illustrate a number of other topics such as how Uranus orbits the sun and the extreme seasons of the planet. There’s certainly lots to learn about, although the presentation and quality of the videos rather varies, with some ropier efforts bundled in with the good ones.

In this sixth version of Redshift, it’s now possible to create your own guided tours, zooming around the galaxies and recording your trip, adding your own comments, photos and sound effects. These can then be saved out and sent to fellow astronomers, who can play them in their copy of Redshift.

Also new to this version is the integration of the digital sky survey, an online digitised map of the heavens, and the Google Earth maps, which are useful additions. Finally, should you be lucky enough to own a robotic telescope, Redshift 6 is an absolute must, as the program has been configured to control many popular brands (including all ASCOM-compliant scopes). That will doubtless take your star-gazing to new levels.

Company: Focus

Contact: 01889 570156

There's a huge whack of content here. The program goes into some depth on many fronts and it provides plenty of interesting videos, not to mention innovative additions such as the integration of the digital sky survey and the ability to concoct your own guided tours. The presentation is, however, a little disappointing in some respects, and Redshift 6 doesn't come cheap.