PROS / This application features an intuitive interface, with the ability to zoom to any planet by the click of a button.
CONS / It has no community features or daily/nightly report tool.
VERDICT / Starry Night Enthusiast is easy to use and full-featured.
Starry Night Enthusiast is a user-friendly astronomy software package with numerous enhanced features. Developed by the Simulation Curriculum Corp. in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Starry Night Enthusiast is their mid-level astronomy software and is perfect for consumers and educators alike (with over 10,000 classrooms using their software). From over 2.5 million stars and 13 thousand deep space objects to explore to its handy movie making capabilities, Starry Night Enthusiast is more than deserving of the TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award in our astronomy software review.
One of the most attractive features that sets Starry Night Enthusiast apart from other astronomy software is its intuitive interface, which allows immediate access to the cosmos with a click of a button. Simply right-click any object in the sky, select Go There, and Starry Night Enthusiast will whisk you away in full 3D animation. The right-click menu also has several other user-friendly functions for deep space objects, such as Select, Center, Hide Daylight, Show Ecliptic, and more.
Starry Night Enthusiast comes with a handy companion book. The Starry Night Companion helps you ascertain basic knowledge of the night sky and is written by well-known astronomy writer John Mosely (Supervisor at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles). Chapters include Astronomy Basics (with subchapters The Night Sky, Motions of Earth and The Solar System), Observational Advice, Earth’s Celestial Cycles, Our Solar System and Deep Space. The book is a must for those new to astronomy, or for those who need a refresher course.
To deepen your understanding of the universe, any good astronomy software package should include guided multimedia tours, and Starry Night Enthusiast has this in spades. Over 70 guided (and interactive) multimedia tours are available on Starry Night, and can be found in the SkyGuide tab, an easy-to-locate button found on the left of the screen. Here you can choose from a huge list of tours, including their Welcome Tour (a self-running introduction to the software), the Our System, the stars and our galaxy tour (an introduction to objects in our solar system and beyond, and tells you what to look for and how to locate it), to a tour of the Messier Objects.
Another reason the award-winning astronomy software Starry Night Enthusiast shines is because of its many teaching tools. Several lesson plans (that adhere to state and national standards) are available from Simulation Curriculum Corp, as well as interactive computer exercises and hands-on activities that encourage questioning and accommodate diverse learning styles. The accurate visualizations and simulations also allow students to make precise observations. Starry Night educational products are recommended by the NSTA.
Starry Night Enthusiast is an impressive astronomy software package overflowing with features. See the sky from any location in the universe (up to 700 million light years away), and if you want to travel in time to see what the sky was/is like in the past or future, Starry Night Enthusiast lets you. Simply change your date/time in the handy toolbar at the top of the screen and watch as the sky display changes, showing the exact location of stars and objects for the time frame you selected.
Starry Night Enthusiast offers full breadth details on millions of stars (with printable charts), with updated information on over 1,000 galaxies available, from both the PGC catalog and Tully 3D database. You can also adjust the appearance of stars within this astronomy software. Change the brightness, contrast and color in the File menu under Preferences. You can even select from a variety of Star Types to display, from Blurry, Crisp, Default, Kids, Photographic, to Spiky. You can also choose to fade objects labels.
The Daily Events Reminder is another tool we love about Starry Night Enthusiast. Upon starting the program, you can choose the Daily Events Reminder box which informs you about any number of events happening in your surrounding skies that day. Select whichever event interests you the most and be taken to the area of the sky where the event is occurring (or will be occurring in the near future). It’s a great way to stay on top and not miss the most exciting celestial events.
Their Sky Calendar (SkyCal, also found in the left bank of tabs) is another tool that helps you stay on top of your observing to-do list and helps you track solar and lunar eclipses, meteor showers, conjunctions and Moon phases. You can even import already established calendars (in the vCalendar format).
Other than the guided interactive tours, dozens of famous space missions are also available to replay/watch at your pleasure on this astronomy software. Missions made by the Pioneer 10, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Cassini, Galileo, Deep Impact, Mars Odyssey and Mars Express are just some of the famous spacecraft listed in this section.
Your desktop stargazing experience is also highly customizable. A variety of panoramas/photorealistic horizons is included. Choose from Lake, Mountain Lake, Oppenhiemer Mountain, Stonehenge, Grass, Central Park, Red Mountain, National Observatory Bulgaria, many different vistas from Solar System planets, and Winter Party. You can even opt to display Light or Heavy Pollution effects. Ambient noises are also available to further customize your experience.
When you purchase Starry Night Enthusiast also receive the SkyTheater DVD, which contains short movies about astronomy and is another great feature for educational purposes. The movies are segmented by “Earth Zone” and "Planet Zone,” with titles such as Inner Planets, Outer Planets, Oddball Planets and Moons of Planets.
Starry Night Enthusiast offers a helpful user discussion page for customers to communicate with one another via their Starry Night Discussion Group on Yahoo groups. To join the group, click on Tech Support at the bottom of the main page.
Ease of Use
Any astronomy software package should be easy to use and not detract from the overall learning/user experience. Starry Night Enthusiast meets these expectations and more. As mentioned above, the intuitive interface of Starry Night Enthusiast brings powerful user-friendly access to the vastness of the universe by the right-click of your mouse. And we love the easily accessible tabs on the left of the screen, which comprise this astronomy software's most-used functions (Find, Options, Favorites, Status, Info, SkyGuide, SkyCal Events, LiveSky and FOV).
Help & Support
Finding and receiving help to use Starry Night Enthusiast couldn’t be easier. Tutorial videos for those new their astronomy software can be found on their site. A User Guide (print and in .PDF format) is also available with your purchase. Phone and email support are available on their site, and an official Starry Night newsletter can be subscribed to stay in the loop of the software’s latest news and updates.
When ordering your software from Simulation Curriculum Corp., a hard copy will be mailed directly to you (check out their site for further shipping details). Downloading the software directly from their site is not an option.
Starry Night Enthusiast is one of the best astronomy software packages on the market. From their intuitive interface and interactive tours to offering free shipping on all orders (the US only) by using the coupon code ‘74635,’ Starry Night Enthusiast sets the bar for our astronomy software review.