Justin Li

Childhood Space Obsession


I recently learned that Google Earth now has a Sky feature, where you can not only look at the Earth from space but also look at space from Earth. It reminded me of a piece of software that I used to own when I was a kid, the Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Space and the Universe.

I don't remember when I played with it, but it was a long time ago - probably older than the 2002 date on Amazon. I mean, my last major space obsession was probably in fifth grade, and that was around 1999. I do remember running it on Windows 98 (hah!), but considering our desktop was bought in January 2003 (during the SARS epidemic holiday), it could be anywhere between those dates.

The "encyclopedia" had a lot of facts about the planets, and the formations of stars and galaxies and all that stuff, all of which I've probably read about before in books. The most fascinating part of the package was the "Sky Dome," where you can look at the sky from anywhere in the world, at any time between 2000 BCE to 3000 CE. I remember looking at how the sky was when I was born. I probably did the same thing for ancient Egypt as well. I maybe have simulated the North Pole sky, too; the program can speed up time, so if you choose the North Pole as the view point you can "see" Earth rotating.

I lost my original copy, but recently saw the Encyclopedia available on DVD. I'm surprised that this children's software would still be on shelves (or at least republished and put on shelves) so long after its original publication.