Thursday, March 25, 2010
A Tour of the Exoplanets in Celestia
As mentioned in the Advertiser article in EducationNow, I'm a fan of using the freeware programs Celestia and Stellarium in astronomy education.
To demonstrate this, I've made a Celestia script that takes you on a trip to three exoplanets (Epsilon Eriadanus b, Super Earth Gliese 851 d, and 47 Ursae Majoris b) showing what the Sun and the constellations Scorpius and the Southern Cross. Like these posts.
The script (download ExoplanetSkies.cel and put it in your Celestia folder, then use File | Open Script to run it.) will take you on this tour while showing some basic information. At the moment, the descriptions are somewhat terse (and I haven't included music), and I really should put together a teachers guide so teachers can get students asking questions and develop some points that would be too wordy to include in the script. But this gives you a flavor of the power of scripts.
If you have Celestia Versions 1.3-1.5 you will have to download the file Wolf_562.ssc (the alternate name for Gliese 581) and put it in your Celestia extras folder. You then have to comment out Gleise 581b which is in these versions. Celestia 1.6 has the full Gliese planet set.
Anyway, download the script, give it a whirl and tell me what you think (ho to improve it for teaching etc.).
The status of Gliese 581d was later refuted however - http://arxiv.org/abs/1407.1049