Britain's budding Patrick Moores may enjoy this latest version of the Redshift suite, but the astronomical price tag could prove less popular.
Based around a comprehensive database of celestial information, Redshift 6.0 allows stargazers to explore a virtual rendition of the night sky, adjusting for time and date, direction of observation and geographical location. Want to check out the next lunar eclipse? No problem. Redshift will tell you when it's happening, where to stand and which direction to point your eyes.
As a hobbyists' planning tool, Redshift works a treat, helping to increase the productivity of an evening's telescope use with its informative assistance. But more casual users who would simply like to view exciting physical phenomena from their PC are less well catered for. The graphics are uninspiring - although it would be hard to compete with the real thing - and the level of expertise required to find attractive sights in the 'virtual planetarium' is quite high. But that’s hardly the point.
Oddly enough, Redshift's later features - guided tours, lectures and The Story of the Universe - approach things from quite the other angle, offering simple, educational articles that will appeal to beginners but may irritate the experts. Something for everyone, perhaps, although for the money you'd expect a package more tailored to a specific audience.
This iteration adds a control mechanism for robotic telescopes and, as usual, the firm's website offers downloads of recent discoveries to update your software. Such revelations as Pluto no longer being classed as a planet, for instance.