by Sandro Pintus

"The Universe in CD-Rom"
Take off on an interplanetary journey from your chair at home

We can now use our computer as though it were the control station of a space ship and take off on a virtual interplanetary journey outside our solar system to reach the limits of the known universe. This is thanks to the latest CD-Rom produced by Tecniche Nuove of Milan, called "The Universe in CD-Rom", which costs 39.000 lire. The necessary configuration for reading the CD is a PC (what a shame that it cannot be used in a Mac), with Windows 3, a CD-Rom reader containing 2MB Ram (4MB for the illustrations), 3 MB of hard disk space and a 256 colour VGA graphic card. It is certainly better to already have some idea about the universe before starting out on this "voyage", but here we can sit down at the commands of our virtual spaceship and take off on a flight through the hypertest and into hyperspace.

The cover of "The Universe in CD-Rom"
by Tecniche Nuove
The over 150 visual effects that come from the archives of the NASA, take up an incredible amount of space and therefore remain in the CD unless called upfor viewing. These include Uranus or Dione, the 5th satellite of Saturn, as well as several views of Jove taken by the American space probes Pioneer and Viking. The archives also contain views of the Moon, and the satellites of Jove or the Sun, that can not only be enlarged but also re-elaborated and touched up. On opening the Skyglobe programme, the celestial globe appears on the screen, showing all the constellations and the Milky Way. We have the power to remove or add stars, accentuate the Milky Way or any of the constellations, as well as observe the passage of the planets. The L key (Location) gives us the index of various places where observation of the sky is possible, from the South Pole to Winnipeg, Mexico City and Rome. The Z key allows us to get closer or further away from any selected constellation, while the directional keys permit us to move around the sky by using the Ascension - Declination co-ordinates. The U key corresponds to the Millennium command, allowing us to travel through the sky over a period of thousands of years and also discover where the constellations will be in the year 10996.

The Pleiades
Circumspace is another part of the programme that shows us the universe outside our galaxy: the F key (Find, search), takes us to the index where we can request the position of Alpha Centaurus, for example. At first we are presented with a group of stars that all look exactly alike, however, if we press the key, their names also appear. Alpha Centaurus is in the centre of the screen with Proxima Centaurus and Vega next to it. The following data appears below the picture: distance from the Sun: 42 light years; closest star: Anon 3919, only 9.05 light years away. The Warp command allows us to move closer or further away in all directions at will, so that we can continue to explore the universe as it is known today. After this, all we have to do is wait for a starry night to observe the real sky that we have explored in our virtual universe.
Silvia Messeri & Sandro Pintus

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