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Gaia Sky 2.1.7

Real-time 3D astronomy visualisation

by Mike Williams

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License: Open Source
Operating Systems: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows 10, Windows 7 (32 bit), Windows 7 (64 bit), Windows 8
Requirements:

Java

Languages: English
Software Cost: Free
Date Updated: 11 January 2019
Watchlist: Add download to my watchlist
Downloads To Date: 1284
Developer: Astronomisches Rechen-Institut
RSS News Feed: https://github.com/ari-zah/gaiasky/commits/master.atom
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Gaia Sky
Real-time 3D astronomy visualisation

Gaia Sky is what the developer calls a "real-time, 3D, astronomy visualisation" package. Which essentially means it's one of those programs where you can fly around in deep space, exploring real imagery of planets, stars and more.

The program opens with its graphics settings. You can choose to run Gaia Sky full screen, in a fixed-size or resizable window. That works for us, although some of the other settings are a little advanced. Which "anti-aliasing" option would you prefer: FXAA, NFAA, MXAA X2...?

We opted for what seemed like high quality settings, and waited for the application to load. And waited, and waited, and waited. But eventually it appeared with an impressive visualisation of Earth, and we were able to click, drag and spin the mouse wheel to move and zoom around.

Navigation doesn't always work as you expect, but start to explore and you'll find answers. Click, drag and release, for instance, and Earth continued to spin in our viewpoint. How could we stop this? Easy: just left-click anywhere.

Gaia Sky doesn't initially display captions for astral objects, either, so there's no obvious way to tell where you are, or where you're going. But click "labels" in the "Controls" panel and captions appear.

There's an even easier way to find stellar objects, and surprisingly you know it already: it's the usual Ctrl+F shortcut. Press Ctrl+F, type Mars, press Enter and your view will point in the direction of Mars. If it's out of sight you can spin the mouse wheel to zoom in, or press Ctrl+G to jump straight there.

There are plenty of configuration options, especially for the graphics. You're able to tweak star brightness, size, ambient light, add a motion blur effect, a lens flare, even display your view in 3D (in theory, anyway- this crashed on our PC).

Once you know what you're doing, it's possible to record and play your paths, allowing others to see how you've flown around the galaxy.

Gaia Sky can even be extended with Python scripts. You don't have to understand how these work to find them useful. As an example, click Run Script..., select goto-test.py and click Run. Gaia Sky smoothly moves your view to our Sun, displays a message, moves to the Earth and repeats.

Verdict:

Gaia Sky can't compete with the imagery of Microsoft Sky, and it's not as easy to use, either. But there is value here, with plenty of configuration options, camera recording and scripting support. Worth a look for astronomy fans who want more than pretty pictures.

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Spotlight: Free Full Software

Windows 10 May 2019 Update ISO (build 1903)

Free Full Commercial Software

This is the latest version of Windows May 2019 Update. it's a media creation tool that can be used to upgrade an existing installation of Windows or create installation media for another PC. Just make your choice after launching the tool and it'll do the rest.

What was new in Windows 10, when it was released? The OS brought back the Start Menu, though with a twist: live tiles keep you up-to-date with the latest news while also providing an easy way to launch apps. (Don't worry if you prefer the Start Screen, it's still there and you can boot into it if you prefer.)

Apps now work much more like regular desktop programs. They have minimise, maximise, restore and close buttons, and can be resized (to a degree) and organised however you like.

If you've still lost track of a program in the mass of open windows, a new Task Spaces feature can help. Click its taskbar button and you'll see thumbnails for everything running now, a little like OS X's Mission Control - just click something to switch to it.

Better still, Task Spaces also supports virtual desktops. Add extra desktops as required and it'll display thumbnails of each one, making it easy to identify whatever you're after and switch to it.

There's also smarter snapping, new customisation options, and even a bunch of experimental additions to the command prompt.

May 2019 Update brings a whole host of new features for Windows 10. See the Microsoft Blog for more information.

The Windows 10 ISO will give you build 1903 which is the May 2019 Update.

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