When I was a kid, I remember my Dad having this large Yellow Celestron telescope. He was very proud of that telescope and had a special foot locker that he kept it in. The thing was that I think he only actually used the scope maybe once or twice. It was difficult to find a place where lights from houses and street lamps would not ruin his star gazing attempts. One of the times that he did go out, it was in the middle of Winter. So he came back home late at night about half frozen. Hmmmm… fun. NOT! That’s why I had to think of him, when Brando asked if I was interested in reviewing the Sega Toys HomeStar planetarium.
Even though the HomeStar is being sold by Sega Toys, this is definitely not a toy. The $200+ price tag should clue you in on that fact. This globe-like projector was developed in collaboration with Takayuki Ohira, who created the world’s most advanced planetarium projector called the MegaStar Cosmos II.
The HomeStar comes with everything you need to create a planetarium in your own home.
AC Adapter (100~240V, 50/60Hz)
Battery box (holds 4 1.5V C cells)
2 Software disks
The HomeStar is available in 2 colors: Black and Silver. I was sent the Black version. Upon removing it from the box, my first impression was that it looked like an eyeball.
The projector is a plastic globe-like module, approximately the size of a softball. It is attached to a chrome stand.
A large iris-like main lens is on the front of the globe, along with a smaller lens located in the lower right quadrant.
The angle of projection is easily adjusted by swiveling the globe up or down. Fixing the position is accomplished by tightening the long screw arms on each side of the stand.
All of the switches are located on the top of the projector. You would imagine that a planetarium might be somewhat complex to operate. Not the case with the HomeStar. There are only 4 switches to worry about. There is an On/Off slider switch, which is pretty self explanatory. There is also a Shooting Star toggle switch. This switch is used in conjunction with the Diurnal Motion switch. Diurnal motion can be set to either clockwise (South) or counterclockwise (North). It simulates the movement of the stars in the night sky. A complete revolution takes approximately 12 minutes (the speed can not be adjusted). There is also a Timer switch, that can be set for 15, 30 or 60 minutes. Enabling the timer allows the HomeStar to automatically power off after the desired duration. Several LEDs display the status for each of the switch features.
The HomeStar ships with 2 software disks for the Northern hemisphere. There is a Southern hemisphere disk set available separately. These disks don’t really have computer software on them; they are actually plastic disks that have 10,000 stars printed on them. Yes, I said 10,000 stars!
The disk fits in the disk tray, just as a CD might fit into the CDrom tray of your computer.
The tray then slides into the slot on the top of the HomeStar. Once the disk is in place, you just need to find a blank wall or ceiling to project the stars. Ten feet (2m) is the recommended optimal projection distance.
This is where I ran into a bit of trouble. All of the ceilings in my house have either ceiling fans or a light fixture, in the center. I finally found that the best place for me to try the HomeStar was to project it on to a White wall in my computer room. The focus can be adjusted by turning the ring around the lens left or right.
Here is an image that I captured while using the star disk. It sure does look like you are gazing up at the night sky, doesn’t it? I was surprised at how bright and focused the stars actually were.
The other software disk shows the constellations. I was disappointed that the HomeStar didn’t come with any documentation to tell you the names of the constellations. Sure, I could pick out the Big Dipper and Little Dipper. Everyone can do that… But I didn’t and still don’t know the names of all the other star formations.
The Shooting Star function will display a shooting star approximately once every 30 seconds, as long as the Diurnal Motion function is also enabled. This feature is kinda neat, but quickly becomes ho-hum when you realize that the star always shoots in the exact same location every time…
The HomeStar is an interesting gadget, but the 200 price tag makes it a little prohibitive for most casual astronomy buffs. In my opinion, this product is better suited for a class room setting, instead of a home.