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Cosmos v4.0- by Chris Wenham

With Cosmos you have your digital ship and over 258,997 stars to sail her by. This is an 'edutainment' astronomy program for OS/2 Warp that has mathematically precise stereographic projection, plus a collection of full color photographs and animation capabilities to have fun with. It's excellent for either novices or seasoned astronomers.

Astronomy as Education

Cosmos's 8.5 megabyte footprint (this includes the optional SAO database described later) is chock full of information, pictures and data regarding the lights in our night sky. Double-click on a star and you can often read facts and history behind the star and its discovery, plus its relation to the constellation it may be part of. Animations are included for such phenomena as the phases of the moon, plus the database is hyperlinked, so you can follow relationships to biographies of a star's discoverer or descriptions of the heavenly bodies. It's quite possible to spend hours clicking through this database and learning more as you go.

Cosmos will optionally draw the outlines and boundaries of the constellations (GIF, 13.7K) as well as the Milky Way's vast twisty path across the heavens. Cosmos can also label each star and constellation, planets and deep sky objects. They can be labeled according to their common name as well as their catalog number.

Astronomy as a Science

Cosmos features an optional SAO (Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory) database of about 258,997 extra stars on top of the several thousand in the NGC database included with the base product.

With the full SAO database installed Cosmos has the ability to paint the screen thick with all the displayable stars. You can limit this by magnitude, of course, which is wise if you want fast screen updates or you're using a slow computer, although it is possible to switch to another program while it's plotting.

The toolbar gives you one-click access to views of the north, south, east and west portions of the sky, plus a complete 360 degree view. If you know your location's latitude and longitude you can enter that and have the display properly centered for your corner of the planet. If not, you can pick your location from the convenient drop-down list that lists dozens of cities in most countries.

Cosmos has the ability to print the current graph, utilizing color if you have such a printer. The quality is acceptable although it only uses half the page and appears to be nothing more than a screen capture with text details of coordinates, location, time and other essentials. For use in other documents you can copy the graph to the clipboard.

Astronomy for Fun!

Cosmos has some limited but still somewhat useful animation capabilities, giving you what Mensys calls a "WARP speed simulation feature". By setting up the number of steps/frames and their time span you can simulate such astronomical events as a solar eclipse.

All of the planets and several interesting deep sky objects have accompanying color photographs (GIF, 24.2K) to view. Most of these are good quality although a bit small. You can tell Cosmos to highlight these on the chart to find them easily.

Navigating through the Stars

Navigating through the graph of the sky is click-n-drag easy (GIF, 36.2K). Right click at the center of the new point of view you wish to see, draw a circle to define the radius of the view, and Cosmos will replot the graph to that point and radius you chose. New details (GIF, 12.1K) may come into view that were too fine to be seen at the lower magnification, plus it becomes easier to aim your pointer at a particular star for which you wish to see data.

Finding a particular star, planet, constellation or deep-sky object is as easy as bringing up the appropriate locator dialog. Type in or scroll down to the object wanted and double-click -- the graph is repainted to center on that object. It's even possible to enter exact coordinates for a section of sky to look at. Buttons for these common 'finders' are located on the tool bar that runs along the top of the graph.

Cosmos

Cosmos is fun to explore both through the graph of stars and the on-line database of information. It's not a visually stunning presentation though and we wish it came on a CD-ROM with more, and larger color photos and animations. But for a street price of US$39, the price is not as astronomical as the software is.
 * Cosmos v4.0
by Mensys
MSRP: US$89
Chris Wenham is a Team OS/2er in Binghamton, NY with a catchy-titled company -- Wenham's Web Works. He has written comedy, sci-fi, HTML, Pascal, C++ and now writes software reviews.

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