Use the X, Y, Z, bars to drive
your ship through the stars.
The Virtual Starship
StarView enables you to take a fantasy flight among the stars in the
Sun's immediate neighborhood. It will tell you what the Sun
looks like from Sirius and Altair. It will even provide you
with stereoscopic views and astronomical data which you can use
to select a star that is likely to have Earthlike planets.
Using the View Window
The view window occupies most of the area of the StarView
applet. It represents the view from the front of your virtual
spaceship. As you move the mouse pointer near each star, its
name appears, and information about the star is listed just below the
view window. Clicking the mouse button will instantly transport
you to the currently selected star, with the front of your ship
facing the Sun.
When the program starts, your ship is located at the Sun, and the
nose is pointed in the direction of Earth's north pole.
Interpreting Star Data
Information on the currently selected star appears just beneath the
view window. One set of data is shown for single-star systems;
multiple sets are shown for systems which are comprised of more than
The name of the star appears on the first line of the display.
The second line of the display shows the star's luminosity.
Use this number to compare the star's energy output to that of the
Sun, whose luminosity is approximately 1. Extremely dim stars
are unlikely to heat any of their planets sufficiently to produce
conditions conducive to life. Very bright stars tend to
burn out quickly, and life would not have sufficient time to
evolve on their planets.
The third line of the display shows the star's distance (in light
years) from the user's current location.
The fourth line of the display shows the star's spectral type. Keep in mind that extremely energetic stars
(those of types O through A) will blast their planets with high doses
of ultraviolet radiation, which is detrimental to the evolution of life.
Operating the Mode Switches
Four mode switches are located at the bottom of the StarView
applet. Click on these buttons to use the controls associated
with the various operating modes.
Use these controls to move your ship through space or to point it to
a particular spot in the sky.
These controls affect how the stars are drawn in the view window.
Select this button to see a list of stars that you can instantly
jump to. If the stars are your destination, then jaunting is the only way to go.
Pressing this button will produce the same list of stars as the
Jaunte button. Select one of these stars, and it will be
centered in the view window. (You cannot view the star
that you are currently visiting, because the light would fry your monitor.)
Before using the navigation controls, it is first necessary to
understand the StarView coordinate systems. The light
year is the unit of distance used by the program. Each
star is assigned coordinates relative to the location of the Sun.
The Z axis of the celestial coordinate system coincides with the
Earth's axis of rotation; the positive end of the Z axis lies in the
direction of the Earth's north pole. The X axis points to
a location in the sky which is known as the first
point in Aries, while the Y axis points toward a spot in
the constellation Orion.
Your ship has its own coordinate system. The positive Z axis
points from the nose of the ship. The Y axis points from the
ship's belly, and the X axis points from the right control fin (which
is so vital to maneuvering in the vacuum of space). As
seen in the applet, the ship's Z axis points directly into the center
of the view window; the X axis points toward the right edge of
the view window, and the Y axis points toward the bottom edge.
When the program starts, the origin and axes of the ship's coordinate
system coincide with those of the celestial coordinate system;
that is, your ship is aligned with Earth's north pole, and the first
point in Aries is to your right.
Navigation Control Panel
The three slider controls at the top of the panel (marked
"Absolute motion") move the ship along the axes of
the celestial coordinate system. The three slider controls at
the bottom of the panel (marked "View motion") move the
ship along the axes of the spaceship coordinate system; the slider
marked "Z" corresponds to the ship's thrust control.
Your ship's current coordinates are displayed just above the View
Motion sliders. These are expressed as the distance of the
viewpoint from the Sun in light years, along the axes of the
celestial coordinate system.
The axes near the center of the panel control the orientation of your
spacecraft. They represent the axes of the spaceship coordinate
system. Click-and-drag on this area to change the
direction that your ship is pointing. These axes exist in three
dimensions, but due to the limitations of computer displays, they
must be drawn in two dimensions. The intensity of the colors
indicates the third dimension: brightly colored axes are
"pointing out" of the plane of the screen toward the
viewer; dim axes are "pointing into" the plane of the
screen away from the viewer.
Beneath the orientation axes are two rows of numbers; these indicate
Ascension and Declination of the spaceship's Z axis. These values can be used for
specifying a spot on the celestial
sphere, much as longitude and latitude are used to fix
one's position on the surface of the Earth.
Style Control Panel
The three buttons toward the top of the panel control the size of
each star drawn in the view window.
The size of each star is determined by its apparent
magnitude, as viewed from the current location of the
spaceship. The largest stars are of magnitude one and
brighter. The smallest stars are of magnitude six and dimmer.
The size of each star is determined by its absolute
magnitude. This means that stars with greater
appear larger, regardless of their distance from the viewer's spacecraft.
The size of each star is determined by its distance from the viewer's
spacecraft; closer stars appear larger, while more distant
stars appear smaller. Neither the brightness nor the actual
size of the star play any role in calculating its size as drawn by
The Zoom slider, located near the center of the Style Control Panel,
controls the focal length of the virtual camera used to view the
stars. Moving the slider to the left decreases the focal
length, resulting in wide-angle views. Moving the slider to the
right increases the focal length, resulting in telephoto views.
Note that extremely wide-angle views can cause "fisheye"
distortion in the image.
The Mono and Stereo buttons enable stereoscopic views. To enjoy
the full stereoscopic effect, the use of an adjustable
stereo viewer is recommended. The Stereo Separation slider
controls the length of the baseline between the "left"
and "right" cameras used to render the stereo images; this
length can be adjusted from zero to 1.3 light years.
Jaunte Control Panel
This panel contains a list of stars that are possible Jaunte
destinations. Use the slider along the right edge of the list
to scroll through the star names. Click on a name, and you will
be instantly transported to the selected star. Upon your
arrival, the nose of your ship will be pointing towards the Sun.
"Look At" Control Panel
This panel contains a list of stars in the StarView database.
Use the slider along the right edge of the list to scroll through the
star names. When you click on a name, the selected star
will be centered in the viewscreen. Stars in the immediate
vicinity (.01 light-year radius) of your current location will not be visible.