Sienna – Starry Night Deluxe review

serious astronomy tool
Photo of Sienna – Starry Night Deluxe
£50

This astronomy package has been out for a few months now, but it’s worth a look because it’s one of the most comprehensive and interesting products of its kind. Astronomy software can veer from the simplistic to the hardcore, but Starry Night Deluxe gets it right, balancing attractive images of the skies with hard data and some unusual extra features.

Real astronomy is not particularly easy in the UK, what with the expense of the equipment, the lousy over-cast weather and the light pollution from streetlamps. Far better, then, to stay indoors, where it’s warm and dry, and play with something like this instead. Starry Night Deluxe first asks you for your location and a couple of other little details, then draws a map of the sky. Including daylight, if necessary (you can switch this off). You can find particular stars and other celestial objects, and there are some nice touches like the drawings of the various constellations – that’s Pisces in the screenshot below, although it’s a bit hard to make out in this resolution.

One of the most fascinating features of this package is that it frees the observer from the Earth. Astronomers are used to seeing the heavens with their feet planted on terra firma, but with Starry Night Deluxe you can view the stars from anywhere in our Solar System. This makes for some interesting and unusual images, like watching the Sun rise over the Earth from the vantage point of our moon. There’s plenty of planetary detail, and multiple zoom levels so that you can do things that just aren’t possible with a telescope.

This program provides far more than just a static picture of the heavens. As well as real-time and accelerated time updates showing the movement of the stars across the sky, Starry Night Deluxe comes with a selection of sample files – you can create your own too – allowing you to watch, for example, the progress of Halley’s comet the last time it passed through the Solar System. And it’s no lightweight database, either, containing references (according to the documentation) to more than 19,000,000 objects.

Company: Sienna

Contact: 01752 895100


Verdict
Starry Night Deluxe is suited to the newcomer and enthusiast, rather than the more serious astronomer who's likely to know it all already. It does have some features that might be interesting to the dedicated, though, particularly the ability to view the Solar System from locations other than Earth. For anyone else, this is a fascinating product that combines real data with artistic licence; the result is both entertaining and informative.