I recommended Celestia to our Astronomy teacher based this article, and it is his new favorite application. He told me that it could replace a two-week unit of his curriculum by allowing students to visualize aspects of the solar system that are difficult to understand. The limitation with previous solar system simulations, he notes, is that the observer is limited to one position in the system, usually Earth, and one point in time. Celestia allows users to move to different positions and speed up time. It’s nothing short of remarkable.
I sometimes long for the pre-Internet days of CD-ROM based simulations, when visualization of abstract concepts was all the rage. When the web took over, graphical simulations all but disappeared, since they relied on high-bandwidth tools such as Director, Flash, and 3D modeling applications. I truly hope that Celestia is a sign of more high-quality visual simulation to come. Would anyone like to convert my old cell biology animations from Strata StudioPro into a web format?