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  • Mission of the Month: Space Party 1-2-3!

    Imagine a NASA or other shuttle setting out for the International Space Station. As the astronauts take flight, why not make your own star trek? With a "Mission of the Month" Space Party, it's easy to explore the universe without leaving home.

    Space Party 1: Star Sightings

    While peering through a telescope in the dead of winter has its place, there's a simpler (and warmer) way to see the cosmos. Thanks to Stellarium, anyone can stargaze from the comfort of a computer desk. Set your coordinates to view a photo-realistic sky—the same sky you'd see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope—including constellations, planets and nebulas, as well as landscapes and atmospheres. You can even travel into the future. Adding to its star-quality, the program features a full spectrum of visual effects, such as constellation art and planet tips. Just follow these guidelines and go!

    Space Party 2: Fly Me to the Moon

    If you've always wanted to go to infinity and beyond, here's your chance. A free, real-time space simulation, Celestia lets you experience outer space in three dimensions. Unlike other planetarium software, the interactive program travels beyond our solar system, at any speed, at any moment in time and in any direction. If you like, use some of the Celestia add-ons (also available for free download) to watch Apollo 11 land on the moon in 1969, to visit the sweltering surface of Venus, to count the pulses of Crab Nebula, or to enjoy hundreds of other far-out adventures. Just follow these guidelines and go!

    Space Party 3: Satellite Watch

    More than a hundred satellites are orbiting Earth at any given time and can be seen with the naked eye. Several of them pass over you every night, wherever you are. Perhaps you've noticed one of these mysterious objects and wondered what it was. With the help of Heavens-Above, you can take the "U" out of UFO. Because satellites move so quickly, the best way to spot them is to generate a predictions page for a particular evening and location. On the Heavens-Above Web site, simply enter your ground location to receive orbital data on a wide range of satellites—the International Space Station, Genesis 1 and the Hubble Space Telescope included. Just follow these guidelines and go!

    Originally published December 2006, last updated May 2013

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