Explaining the concept of stars, galaxies and the universe in general is a tough task, but multimedia titles such as this can certainly help to dispel some of the confusion. Deep Space Explorer lets you take a virtual trip through the known universe, flying around planets, stars and galaxies – some 30,000 of them, in fact – and viewing a healthy bundle of video content too.
One of the nice things about the program is that you can take a space-craft flight through the known universe, controlling the speed and direction of your flight using the keyboard (a minor complaint is that the ‘up’ and ‘down’ controls should really be reversed to make things easier). Some attempt has been made to show the galaxies as 3D objects; this works pretty well, as long as you don’t get too close; they images get quite pixellated at close range.
Conveniently accelerating to many millions of times the speed of light, you can whip across to near and not so near galaxies, nebulae and other fascinating objects. You have to be careful not to overshoot your target, and there’s all sorts of on-screen numbers and stuff that probably won’t make much sense to the novice, but at least this helps to give you some idea of the sheer scale of the universe. If you don’t want to fly you can jump quickly to a particular object using the Find command.
Then there are the videos. These cover topics such as the measurement of distances in space, deep space structures, information about our galaxy, the huge number of satellites orbiting the Earth, dark matter and dark energy (rather dark, these ones) and so on. They’re succinct, well made and informative without being too technical and there are useful links to the Space.com web site for more information.
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