7 astronomy visualization software to explore space with

by Matthew Adams
Matthew Adams
Matthew Adams
Windows & Software Expert
Matthew is a freelancer who has produced a variety of articles on various topics related to technology. His main focus is the Windows OS and all the things... read more
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astronomy software

There are plenty of software packages for Windows that map out parts of the known universe such as the Solar System and simulate a view of the stars. The best astronomy software packages are 3D space simulators. That kind of astronomy visualization software is a great alternative to telescopes. These are a few programs for Windows that you can explore space with.

RedShift 8

RedShift is one of the foremost commercial astronomy software packages for Windows that’s retailing at $59.99 for the Premium version. The software has a flight mode that enables you to explore the galaxy in glorious 3D. It also provides an expansive panorama of the Milky Way and photo-realistic horizons. Its database includes more than 100 million stars, 125,000 asteroids, 1,800 comets and other celestial objects. With RedShift’s Macro Recorder users can record guided tours of space and combine them with background music and photos. Another great thing about this program is that it enables scope control for robotic and ASCOM telescopes. So it’s a serious bit of kit for astronomers.



Celestia is freely available astronomy software you can add to Windows, Mac or Linux from this website page. This program provides another stunning 3D representation of some of the universe with high-resolution mapping of planets. It’s based on the Hipparcos Catalogue that amounts to more than 100,000 stars within and beyond our galaxy. In this simulator users can travel space at walking pace or light speed with the keyboard, and the software provides comprehensive details for the planets and other celestial objects. In addition, Celestia has an expansive collection of add-ons at the Motherlode site with which you can add new surface texture maps, asteroids, comets, spacecraft and satellite to the software.

WinStars 2

astronomy software

WinStars 2 is a shareware program that showcases our Solar System in 3D. Users can move through a Solar System map with the cursor, apply zooming options and adjust 3D animation parameters. The software boasts an extensive database of 2.5 million stars and 10,000 galaxy, star clusters and nebulae. With its built-in search engine users can quickly search for stars and planets, and WinStars 2 gives you extensive details for celestial objects. Furthermore, you can also operate GoTo telescope mounts with the software. Click WinStars 2.079 R3 – July 6, 2011 – 30 Mo on this page to save the software’s installer to Windows.


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Stellarium is 3D planetarium software for Windows. This is an open-source program that shows you realistic 3D skylines with a plethora of stars (about 600,000 included in its default catalogue). Thus, it isn’t quite the same as software such as Celestia that provide space travel simulators. The program has fairly minimal system requirements, and you can save its setup wizard by clicking Windows on the Stellarium home page.

Stellarium includes numerous visualization effects for star twinkles, shooting stars and eclipses. Users can display stars from a variety of locations including Saturn, Phobos and Mars. It also has a variety of built-in plugins that you can enable from a tab. One of those is a telescope control plugin that enables you to operate computerized scopes with the software.


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StarStrider is space visualization software that has had some rave reviews. It’s a shareware package retailing at $22 that has a 30-day trial version. This is another full-3D planetarium software package in which you can explore space with a virtual space ship. The program includes a variety of rendering modes, extra visual effects such as lens flares and detailed planetary surface maps that give it a little more graphical gloss. StarStrider incorporates about 118,218 stars from the Hipparcos (a former ESA satellite) database, and it has an extra database add-on that includes millions more stars. There are also novel anaglyph glasses for the software that provide stereo 3D effects.

Space Engine

Space Engine is a comprehensive space simulator that enables users to ‘boldly go where nobody has gone before.’ This is freeware software that represents celestial objects with data from Hipparcos and NGC/IC catalogs, and some of its 3D landscapes are based on space probe data. It includes more than 130,000 space objects and 10,000 galaxies to boot, which you can fly through in Spacecraft, Aircraft and Free mode. The flight modes have flexible control schemes based on the WASD keys, or you can switch to autopilot by pressing the G key.

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What really sets Space Engine apart from some of the other astronomy visualization software is its use of procedural generation to include an undiscovered universe. The procedural generation algorithms generate masses of uncharted stars and galaxies for you to explore. As such, this space simulator has unprecedented scale.

So Space Engine packs a lot in and has higher system requirements than most astronomy visualization software. The program needs 960 megabytes of storage space. Two GB RAM, one GB video card and a two Ghz duel-core processor are minimum system requirements. Open this page on the software’s website and click SpaceEngine to save the installer. That page also includes a couple of add-ons that enhance the Solar System planet resolutions.

Solar System Scope

Solar System Scope has a desktop and browser version. Click here to open the browser version. That includes a 3D simulation of the Solar System and virtual observatory, and you can double-click planets or moons to expand them. Press the arrow keys to rotate the camera, and roll the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. You can also open some interesting online models by clicking Content and selecting one from the window.

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The desktop version of this astronomy visualization software runs in full screen and has more detailed graphics with ultra HD textures for planets and moons. You can also download 2K and 8K texture packages for the program based on NASA imagery. The desktop software is retailing at $9.80, and you can add Solar System Scope apps to the Android and iOS platforms.

So those are several astronomy visualization software packages for Windows and other platforms. These aren’t merely static 2D star maps and charts, but 3D simulators that show space from a thrilling perspective. They provide extensive details for planets, stars, moons and other celestial objects in outer space.

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