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Star struck

DISCOVER ASTRONOMY. Age range: 11 and older, CD-Rom for Mac and Multimedia PC Windows, Pounds 17.99 Available through mail order. Maris Multimedia, 99 Mansell Street, London E1 8AX. Tel: 0171 488 1566

It's a few years since a team of Russians made the definitive astronomy CD-Rom. It's a model of the heavens where the movement of every star, moon or planet is programmed. You can see the planets orbit, or watch the Earth from the Moon. That and this year's Redshift 2 are serious tools. Watch an expert use it and you're dazzled, but when they've gone you're lost in space.

Now there's Discover Astronomy with a much easier angle. Fifty movies, made using Redshift, help explain the seasons and eclipses. Other than pause and rewind, there are no controls to fiddle, no warp drive to set - you just watch. Do the stars really move in the sky? Does the sun change position through the year? Just look and see.

Under the heading of "The Story of the Universe", guided multimedia tours (also in Redshift 2) tell about sun spots, novae and red dwarfs. The tours have atmosphere and commentary, but really lay on the technical terms so you're just left with the atmosphere and some awe. This will be handy in class to explain things, or the library to raise interest, though there's enough competition in astronomy CD-Roms to make anyone scream.

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