Nightshade Open Source Planetarium Project Launched
BREMERTON, Wash., December 30, 2009 – Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc. is pleased to announce the official launch of Nightshade(TM), open source astronomy simulation and visualization software specifically tailored to digital planetarium and educator use.
Nightshade offers a realistic simulation of the sky when and where the user chooses. Nightshade renders over 100,000 stars in stunning realism and in situ images of deep sky objects of note, including many Hubble Space Telescope images. Users can explore the solar system from many perspectives: visiting far off moons, zooming in on planetary features, or tracing orbits and trails, for example. Constellations from many different cultures are included, and the software is internationalized to support more than 40 different languages. The software is highly customizable for differing preferences and applications.
Nightshade is a fork of the award-winning Stellarium software. Stellarium software was an obvious match for Digitalis, a company which specializes in affordable digital planetarium systems, when it started production in 2003. Digitalis was a large contributor to Stellarium, but over time the project's focus has shifted in ways that have damaged features critical to planetariums.
Code and technology changes over the past few years left it almost impossible to backport Digitalis' improvements to Stellarium. After much reflection, Digitalis has decided to officially release its customized version of Stellarium as an entirely separate community supported project.
“A fork is always a difficult situation in the open source world,” said Robert Spearman, Digitalis President and co-founder. “We bear no ill will towards the Stellarium project, but for many reasons we feel this is the only way to guarantee that the needs of the planetarium community will be listened to. Now, with a growing community and a clean slate to start from, I think Nightshade can really take off.”
While spearheaded by Digitalis, the Nightshade project is supported by a growing community of planetarium professionals and organizations. Early participants include the Nizhniy Novgorod Planetarium (Russian Federation) and Lionel Ruiz of the Observatoire de Marseille (France). The Nightshade project is explicitly vendor neutral.
As the project launches, its success will depend on the help and feedback of all of its users, not just software developers. Volunteers are wanted for translating, testing, suggesting features, providing more sky culture information, designing culture appropriate constellation art, creating scripts and documentation, etc. A developer to build a Mac OS X package is greatly desired.
Nightshade is available for Linux, Windows, and (eventually) Mac OS X. It is backward compatible with scripts for Stellarium 0.8.2 and earlier, using the StratoScript(TM) language developed and maintained by Digitalis.
For more on Nightshade, please visit: NightshadeSoftware.org
About: Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc.: Digitalis was founded in 2003 to create capable and affordable tools for astronomy education. It was the first to launch an easy-to-use, all-digital portable planetarium system. With hundreds of Digitarium(R) systems used around the world, Digitalis is the leading provider of digital planetarium systems for the portable and small fixed-dome market.
In July, our first Beginners' Session using the [Digitarium Alpha] planetarium was a big hit -- it was hard to get people to go outside and look at the REAL stars, although it was a beautiful night.
— Catherine Koehler, Battle Point Astronomical Association, Bainbridge Island, WA