In the Shops
The latest books, apps, software, tech and accessories for space and astronomy fans alike
Our pick of the best books, apps, software and accessories for astronomy and space fans
“They delivered excellent pinpoint views of stars across their 50 degree field of view”
Book Columbus in Space
Cost: £8.99 From: European Space Agency / Penguin Books
Sometimes it is easy to forget that the International Space Station (ISS) is not purely a NASA affair, but it is a truly global project, as this book from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Penguin Books reminds us. It tells the story of the ISS’ Columbus module, built by ESA and attached to the space station in February 2008 in a procedure that took 12 days and 18 hours.
The prose tells us to think of Columbus as a flying science laboratory conducting dozens of experiments each year in such varied fields as fluid physics, physiology in space, solar monitoring, humane biological research on animals and plants, micrometeoroids and Earth observation.
The Columbus module cost 1.4 billion Euros to complete, and among the many facts presented in this anniversary book, is the fact that 5,161 people have been involved in Columbus’ science experiments over the last ten years. A great introduction to Columbus, which allows many more people to learn about how the ISS is doing science in from Earth orbit.
Accessories Exoplanet v 17.1.0
Cost: Free From: iOS
Highly visual and interactive, Exoplanet allows you to keep up to date with the latest discoveries of alien worlds. Developed by professional astronomers, this app features a stunning 3D model of our galaxy, revealing the locations of all known exoplanets. We enjoyed the zoom function, which allows the user to get a close-up ‘view’ of planetary systems. If you’ve ever wondered what the night sky looks like from these alien worlds, then you’re in luck: Exoplanet provides such a feature, as well as a push notification when another world is found and where you can find these exoplanets in the night sky in real time.
Essentially a catalogue or database of discoveries, Exoplanet provides detailed information on every confirmed world in a visual way. The graphics aren’t massively detailed, but given that it’s clear which exoplanet you’re observing at any one time this didn’t affect our experience. The app has been consistently revised and improved, fixing any bugs that affect the running of the app. However, despite being in its 16th version the app still continues to crash, forcing us to shut our device down on several occasions. This became quite frustrating after the seventh time of restarting the app.
Software Starry Night Pro
Cost: £38.99 (approx. $50.00) For: Windows, Mac
Dubbed the ‘most realistic’ astronomy software, Starry Night Pro certainly lives up to the hype. Its graphical performances as well as its huge package of options that contain everything the serious astronomer needs make this a must to own by those keen on the wonders of the night sky.
Starry Night Pro, which is available for Mac and PC, comes with a wide selection of objects – including 16 million stars, over 19 million objects up to magnitude 15 as well as 73,197 galaxies. Of course, Starry Night Pro is also massively educational and, provided you have OuickTime installed on your computer, users can watch a wide selection of movies, including sky animations, planet flybys achieved by NASA missions and rocket and spacecraft launches. This astronomy software also allows you to travel beyond the Solar System in 3D up to 700 million light years away and create planets with customisable surface details and satellites. You can also go back or forward in time by 99,999 years to observe the sky and track asteroids and comets.
Given its massive amount of data, Starry Night Pro requires a computer with a large amount of RAM and hard disk space. If this doesn’t worry you and you have had an interest in astronomy for a long time then we strongly recommend this program.
Accessories Sky-Watcher SP Plössl eyepieces
Cost: £20-£29 From: First Light Optics We think that a telescope is often only as good as its eyepiece, but the best accessories can sometimes cost almost as much as the telescope. Finding affordable, high-quality eyepieces is an important task, and SkyWatcher’s range of SP Plössl eyepieces, with focal lengths ranging from 6.3mm to 40mm, fit the bill.
Plössls contain two sets of two lenses, known as achromatic doublets, which help set them apart from standard eyepieces that may get lumped in with your telescope purchase. When testing these 1.25-inch eyepieces on a six-inch f/4 reflector we were pleased with their performance, which delivered excellent pinpoint views of stars across their 50 degree field of view. The Moon revealed excellent clarity and brightness, with no apparent distortion or spherical aberration. The eyepieces feel solidly constructed, with the larger eyepieces in the range benefitting from rubber grips, though we imagine you might end up dropping the smaller eyepieces from numb fingers during cold winter nights. Glasses-wearers, however, may find that the SP range lacks adequate eye relief, even on the longer focal length eyepieces.