The Universe we live in is a fascinating endless space to explore. It has been attracting scientists' attention for many years, decades and even centuries. For human beings, the dark Space is full of mystery, romance and opportunities. Looking at stars through a telescope is surely the best way to study the sky map. Unfortunately, the required device costs pretty much and can't be afforded by many people. Here Universe simulation applications come in sight.
What Do They Exactly Do?
In general, these programs are created to let you study the planets. Usually they provide a lot of information about the sky objects, allowing you to zoom in and have a look at their surface. You can feel yourself a traveler in Space with their help. The simulations can show you faraway stars and their trajectories. You can watch celestial bodies move in real time or how the strength of gravity depends on the mass, speed and size of an object.
Universe Sandbox is very dynamic. The first thing you see when the program starts is the Sky with billions of stars and a menu on the right side of the screen. The interface is very intuitive: you can immediately access the Solar System simulation, have a close look at Saturn or Jupiter with their Moons, or choose some other simulations to be viewed.
By default, the view is centered on the main stars (still, you can change it if you like), all celestial bodies are shown in motion. Mind, that unless you pass the tutorial, it is very difficult to find the required controls to freeze the image on your screen. The tutorial is very quick and handy. In several minutes, you study the basics and can freely use the Universe Sandbox program.
Sadly, it has a couple of tiny disadvantages that I can't but mention. You can view planets from different sides, but the camera angle change is hardly predictable and not very convenient to apply. It is also impossible to zoom in to the surface of planets.
All-in-all, Universe Sandbox gives a sympathetic impression, by coming up with lots of information, leading to fun and relaxing. It is hard to turn away from the tool.
WorldWide Telescope is more static compared with Universe Sandbox. It seems to be more like a browser with additional data and functions. This tool is perfect for educational purposes, especially combined with the previously mentioned one. Both allow for seeing the Universe in motion, but can enrich the experience gained from each of them. You can master constellations as well as the major planets, which forms the main difference from the previous application.
When WorldWide Telescope is run for the first time, you get a help window with a short description how to use the interface. To be honest, it takes some time to get accustomed to controls, but once it is done, the tool becomes convenient to use and provides highly detailed settings. This program feels very scientific. WorldWide Telescope will perfectly suit adults and upper graduates, while Universe Sandbox has a chance to be of interest to children as well.
Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program is perfect for people of all ages. In fact, it doesn't simulate the Universe, but is closely connected with the Space. It shows in detail how Space vehicles are build. When you have the first start of the application, you are offered a tutorial to go through, which is highly recommended. I chose to skip it and regretted that later as had to study all tiny buttons by myself.
This program has a very colorful interface, with strange and funny yellow humanoids that work in the simulated center. You can build rockets, shuttles of various modifications and try them in a flight.
While the previous tools offer to learn details about the stars that surround us, this one makes it possible to study peculiarities of Space flights, providing lots of information about how your trip is going on. Kerbal Space Program can help arouse interest to physics in kids through play.
The Universe simulation applications make it easier to learn information about faraway stars and have a look at distant planets before people find a way to safely travel long distances.