This picture is breathtaking!
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
I wanted to improve my knowledge of the solar system’s neighborhood with a software which makes it possible to get a 3D navigation between the stars. Unfortunately, I could not install Celestia because of the requirements of administrator’s rights. So I looked for another option and found the Digital Universe Atlas, which is a light version of the software used in the Hayden Planetarium. Well, I must say its interface is far from being trivial but the tutorial is quite well-written and with some training, the navigation becomes easy.
You can see hereafter a screenshot of it:
The picture is static and not very impressive; the pleasure comes from the movement of the camera and the feeling to fly in the interstellar space: you start to understand the huge distances between the stars. I got interested here on Epsilon Eridani, one of my favorite stars, at some 11 light years away from the sun, with a giant gas planet orbiting around it. The blue circle indicate the presence of a planet. The circles around the sun indicate the distances, the outer circle being the 10 ly limit. However, I have not yet understood how to find a star and jump to it: for instance, I looked for 61 Cygni but impossible to find it. I do not know for sure if it is a limitation from the program or a limitation from myself!!
All in all, it is a good software: I think it is really possible to get a better understanding of near and far space thanks to it. Yet, I would like to compare with Celestia to check the differences.