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Best star projectors: Indoor views of the night sky

The best star projectors fill your room with the universe
(Image credit: Amazon)

What if you could bring the night sky inside? The best star projectors do just that, filling walls and ceilings with stars, constellations (opens in new tab) and more to create an immersive experience that can spark imaginations. Easy to use and simple to set up, star projectors come in many shapes and sizes and to suit a range of budgets as vast as the night sky itself. 

Quick tips for choosing a star projector

1. Look for a simulation according to actual time and day. 

2. The smaller the room, the sharper the stars will look.

3. Check how many disks come with each product. 

4. Choose automatic shut-off if using it as a night-light. 

Like everything else, with star projectors you get what you pay for. While those at the more affordable end of the market tend to concentrate on room-filling, colorful yet mostly novelty-style ambient projections of the kinds of objects you might see in the night sky, the more you pay the more accuracy you get — and the closer you get to a science-based planetarium-style experience. If the intended recipient is a child with a keen interest in the night sky, go for the latter, which is more impressive and educational. 

Here at Space.com, we've cast our eye over the market for the best star projectors and rounded up the very best for creating stars, planets, galaxies and more ideal for bedrooms. 


Encalife Atmosphere

(Image credit: Tantse Walter)
16.7 million nebula colors, plus voice control with Alexa and Google

Specifications

Dimensions: 300 x 150 x 300 mm
Weight: 1.9 lbs
Power: USB cable
Special features: 16.7 million nebula colors, voice control, smart app integration

Reasons to buy

+
Controllable from your phone (compatible with iOS and Android)
+
On/off timer that's programmable
+
Star and nebula speeds can be controlled separately
+
Voice controlled by Google Assistant and Alexa

Reasons to avoid

-
Star and constellation patterns are not scientifically accurate

We don't know what we love most about the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector (opens in new tab) from Encalife: the exquisite 16.7 million nebula colors to choose from, or the ability to be able to control this projector with our voice with Alexa and Google. To boot, it boasts a sleek design that's sure to delight many: it's modern and compact, which allows the user to place it pretty much anywhere in household — there's even four angles to adjust this unit to, so it's versatile enough to project either onto the wall or ceiling.

Setting the projector up is extremely intuitive, but it does feature an instruction manual that's easy to understand should the user need it. We advise making use of it to set its timers and schedules; this projector is able to be programmed to switch on and off at a specific time and day of the week, allowing you to enjoy a fully automated experience. 

Not only is the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector easy to sync up for seamless voice control — you can change the colors, modify brightness and adjust the speed just by speaking — there's also the option to be able to issue commands through your smartphone and after pairing with a Smart App (compatible with Android and iOS). It's here where things get even more impressive: using the color wheel on your device, it's possible to slide through a variety of tones, from cool blue to warm fiery red. What's more, there's a blend of 16.7 million hues to choose from, though, from our Atmosphere Smart Galaxy review we found that those 16.7 million colors aren't actually all that distinguishable.

The only downside with the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector is that the nebulas and stars aren't scientifically accurate, but we enjoyed the experience so much that we didn't feel short-changed in the slightest. We were particularly delighted with the option to be able to change the speed of the projection along with the brightness, making this device a great tool for creating a relaxing ambience or a lively party scene.

For a reasonable cost, Encalife has provided get some great add-ons with the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector: a USB power cable for charging, safety box and gift box. 


Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Galaxy Star Projector

(Image credit: Tantse Walter)
16.7 million colors to choose from, adjustable brightness settings, compatible with every Android and IOS smartphone.

Specifications

Dimensions: 150 x 130 x 160 mm
Weight: 1.9 lbs
Power:
Special features:

Reasons to buy

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Compatible with any Android or IOS smartphone
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 Millions of color patterns to choose from
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Adjustable brightness and movement settings
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Great quality

Reasons to avoid

-
The Smart Galaxy Projector is similar and cheaper

It's a one-two in this list for Encalife products and once again, we're not sure what we love most about this Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Star Projector (opens in new tab). Once again, you get to choose from 16.7 million Aurora colors and you get to do it with ease by controlling it with your smartphone. This Northern Lights projector is compatible with all Android and IOS smartphones and it allows you to save the stars, full moon and combination of Aurora Borealis to suit your mood.

During our Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Star Projector review we found additional features of this projector includes the ability to turn on music to change and suit the mood. It can create the lively or soothing atmosphere you're chasing and you probably won't see the Aurora Borealis quite like this. It also comes with timers and controls so you can pick and choose when it comes on and what setting you'd like to create. 

Adjustable brightness and adjustable moving stars and lights mean dim the lights or brighten them to resemble the night sky, as well as choose which stars move around when. You can make them move around as slowly or as quickly as you like so your Aurora Borealis experience can be as chilled or as lively as you like - anything goes!


Sega homestar flux star projector main image

(Image credit: Future, via Tantse Walter)
Sega's powerful, realistic star projector that projects bright, detailed images of the night sky

Specifications

Dimensions: 160 x 160 x 150 mm
Weight: 1.36 lbs.
Max. size of projection: 270 cm
Accuracy: True to time and date
Power: USB cable and wall power pack
Special features: 60,000 stars, shooting star mode, extra disks available

Reasons to buy

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As realistic as it gets
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Lots of upgrade disks

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
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No lens cover

One of the sleekest-looking and most powerful star projectors around, the satin black Sega Toys Homestar Flux, although compact, comes with a high price — and ambition to match. More of a home planetarium than a simple star projector, we found the Homestar Flux’s multilevel glass lenses produce realistic-looking night skies from the comfort of your own home and are plenty bright enough, even for rooms that aren't 100% dark. After adjusting the focus to suit you’ll see 60,000 stars — many more than on its competitors — and you don’t even need to use a completely dark room, thanks to the Homestar Flux’s brightness. 

However, where this globe-like product really succeeds is with the sheer number of stars it displays and some tempting science-based upgrade options. The Homestar Flux is provided with two discs, the Northern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere Constellations one shows a starry sky with 60,000 stars while the other contains constellation labels. There are a further 17 Sony-branded disks that can be purchased separately for around $18 a piece, and it's also compatible with Homestar Original (opens in new tab) disks. Like many other star projectors, there’s a "shooting star" function and an automatic switch-off after 15, 30 or 60 minutes. 

Go to Astrial (opens in new tab), Sega Toys’ official online shop and you can choose from 30 more disks. Simulation of the aurora borealis (opens in new tab) and the aurora australis are perhaps the highlights. There's also a disk that shows the planets of the solar system, yet there are others that really impress, including some that display galaxies, nebulas and various NASA-based imagery. For example, the North America nebula as taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (opens in new tab), and the weird seven-star system called Jabbah (officially called Nu Scorpii and IC 4592) as imaged by NASA’s WISE (opens in new tab) mission. You can also buy disks that simulate fireworks, ‘night jellyfish’ and a hot-air balloon festival. 


National Geographic Astro Planetarium

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. National Geographic Astro Planetarium

Complete with educational posters and FM radio

Specifications

Dimensions: 160 x 160 x 200 mm
Weight: 1.57 lbs.
Max. size of projection: 180 x 220 cm
Accuracy: True to time and date
Power: 3 x AA batteries
Special features: "Shooting star" mode, FM radio

Reasons to buy

+
Realistic night sky
+
FM radio and MP3 hook-up

Reasons to avoid

-
‘Falling star’ mode is basic
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Slight blur at edges

The National Geographic Astro Planetarium is a high quality indoor planetarium for a good price that projects an accurate representation of the night sky — and it comes with plenty of extras. Two projection disks are included; one shows 8,000 stars and the other overlays guidelines for the major constellations. Crucially, what you see is true to the time and day you set it to. 

It’s really easy to use. The buttons light-up blue, which makes it simple to rotate the image and adjust the focusing wheel in darkness. The result is a projection on the ceiling that’s bright and sharp (the optics in this planetarium are from German optics brand Bresser, which makes binoculars, telescopes and microscopes). However, stars right at the edge of the projection can seem slightly blurry. 

One novel feature is an optional "falling star" mode, which projects a flashing meteor every 40 seconds, though always in the same place. However, it’s another unexpected feature that’s got nothing to do with astronomy that really makes this a standout. 

In the box are four educational posters, three AA batteries to power it as well as a 3.5 mm jack cable, the latter of which can be used to hook-up a smartphone or other audio device to play through this star projectors’ small mono speaker. It’s also got an FM radio if you want to listen to music while you stargaze indoors. 


Bresser Junior Astro-Planetarium Deluxe

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Bresser Junior Astro-Planetarium Deluxe

Projects from 2 meters and shuts down automatically

Specifications

Dimensions: 155 x 155 x 191 mm
Weight: 1.4 lbs.
Max. size of projection: 160 x 210 cm
Accuracy: True to time and date
Power: 3 x AA batteries
Special features: "Falling stars" mode, auto shutdown

Reasons to buy

+
Realistic night sky
+
Automatic shutdown

Reasons to avoid

-
Shooting star" mode is basic
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Blurry at edges 

Although not as garish-looking as the Bresser-made National Geographic Astro Planetarium, the Bresser Junior Astro-Planetarium Deluxe is an almost identical product. Available in a silver and black chassis, this incarnation has the same essential specifications and projections, and it works in the same way, but there are some notable differences. 

The same Astro Planetarium Multimedia disks are included — one featuring a starry night sky and another featuring overlays of constellations — and it’s all completely accurate to the time and day you’re using it. 

Best used to project from 2 meters, you can rotate the image through 360º using its built-in motors and it’s easy to adjust the image using a focusing wheel around the Bresser-made lens. It can be set to automatically shutdown after 30, 60 or 120 minutes, which is useful if it’s intended for a child’s bedroom and they want to fall asleep under the stars. 

It’s also got a falling star mode, which can be activated to project a flashing meteor every 40 seconds. 

Where the Bresser Junior Astro-Planetarium Deluxe really differs from the National Geographic Astro Planetarium is that it doesn’t include an integrated FM radio or an ability to attach an audio device. That’s a handy difference if you don’t want that functionality, and the Bresser Junior Astro-Planetarium Deluxe is thus available for a lower price. 


Omegon Star Theater Pro Planetarium

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Omegon Star Theater Pro Planetarium

Features 10,000 stars and impressively detailed night-sky "views"

Specifications

Dimensions: 150 x 150 x 180 mm
Weight: 1.1 lbs.
Max. size of projection: Up to 7.5 m
Accuracy: Random star projections
Power: USB cable
Special features: Sun/Earth/Moon projection disk

Reasons to buy

+
Includes 10,000 stars
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Quiet motor

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed rotation speed
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Lacks brightness

Here’s a star projector that’s a more serious astronomical device than some star projectors, but only just. Shipping on a small tripod desktop stand, the Omegon Star Theater Pro Planetarium is powered by a USB cable, which means it can be attached to a portable battery source for special occasions – such as if you want to place it in the centre of a room. 

The adjustable projection distance from 15 centimeters to 6.8 meters is handy, but although it illuminates the ceiling with a realistic night sky of 10,000 stars, it lacks brightness, ultimate sharpness and stellar accuracy. For example, you can’t adjust the time or day, hence you’re only getting a random starry night sky that lacks context, labels or constellation guides. It’s tricky to find anything you might recognise, though it does include the arc of the Milky Way

So it’s good for anyone after a decorative night sky projection, but not necessarily very effective as a learning device. 

What the resulting "space night lamp" does boast is a plethora of additional disks. In the box is an Earth/Moon/Sun disk, while online there are further options for disks showing a more detailed Milky Way, a star-forming nebula, the planets of the solar system from a flyover point-of-view, the Pinwheel Galaxy and conceptual art of the universe as a whole. 

The Omegon Star Theater Pro Planetarium is also sold under the Uncle Milton brand so can play disks sold for similar Uncle Milton products. 

Like most star projectors, this one has a useful ‘sleep time’ function that switches off the star projector after 30, 60 or 120 minutes.


Ambience Star Projector and packaging

(Image credit: Tantse Walter)
With 21 lighting modes and a high-quality Bluetooth speaker to play music

Specifications

Dimensions : 168.9 x 167.89 x 134.87 mm
Weight: 1.76 lbs.
Power : USB cable
Special features: 21 lighting modes, speaker to play music, Bluetooth enabled

Reasons to buy

+
Comes with a remote control
+
Sleep timer, which you can set up to four hours
+
High-quality Bluetooth speaker to play music

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited color range
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Stars and constellations are not scientifically accurate 

In comparison to the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector, the Ambience Galaxy & Star Projector (opens in new tab) doesn't offer as many lighting modes, but it doesn't suffer for it. Featuring four primary colors — blue, green, white, red — users are able to blend the shades together via supplied remote control. That allows 21 color modes to be created. 

We are impressed with the high-quality build of this compact star projector. Its sleek, black coloration allows it to fit in with many home decors and — what's more — it also doubles up as a music device, allowing users to play their favorite sounds while watching galactic shades dance around their ceiling and walls. The speaker is of a high quality, with no 'tinniness'.

You will need to set up your phone's Bluetooth before you begin, but this is a seamless experience, with the user being up and running within moments. 

Similarly to the Atmosphere Galaxy Projector, you won't get scientific accuracy with the Ambience model, but you'll get a fantastic "insomnia-busting" experience that allows your kids (or yourself) sleep better at night. 


Smithsonian Optics Room Planetarium and Dual Projector Science Kit

(Image credit: Amazon)

8. Smithsonian Optics Room Planetarium and Dual Projector Science Kit

Offers plenty of different images and simple to use

Specifications

Dimensions: 254 x 178 x 254mm
Weight: 1.85 lbs.
Max. size of projection: N/A
Accuracy: Fixed Northern Hemisphere starscape
Power: 4 x AA batteries
Special features: Extra disk of space-related images, 15-minute auto shut-off

Reasons to buy

+
Simple to use
+
Lots of different images

Reasons to avoid

-
Complete blackout required
-
Lacks brightness

Shipping with an adjustable desktop stand, you can aim the Smithsonian Optics Room Planetarium and Dual Projector Science Kit wherever you like and see the stars of the night sky across the ceiling and walls. In this default planetarium slide you can make the stars rotate and move, and use them either as the sole image or as a background to some other images that come from three other slides in the box. We’re talking 24 simple, still images of objects ranging from the sun, Earth, moon, asteroids and planets, the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, an astronaut on a spacewalk, and deep-sky sights such as galaxies and nebulas. It also includes a poster. 

It’s definitely something for a child rather than an adult, not just because of its focus on pretty pictures, but the basic nature of its planetarium mode, which is little more than a rotating star pattern. It shows only the stars of the northern hemisphere and lacks labels and/or constellation guidelines, so whether or not it’s possible to learn anything from its projections is questionable. 

Available in either black or blue and powered by four AA batteries, the Smithsonian Optics Room Planetarium also features a 15-minutes auto-shut-off so kids can fall asleep under the stars. As such, it’s best suited to young kids who’ve expressed an interest in space, but not those interested in the detail. It’s very simple to use, extremely affordable and will suit undemanding users with low expectations. 


Sky Lite 2.0 product and box

(Image credit: Tantse Walter)
Silent operation — and can be controlled with a smartphone!

Specifications

Dimensions: 235 x 207 x 76 mm
Weight: 1.74 lbs.
Max. size of projection: 81 square meters
Accuracy: None
Power: USB power cable
Special features: Automatic switch-off up to six hours, BlissLights smartphone app

Reasons to buy

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Custom light shows via app
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Quiet operation

Reasons to avoid

-
Not scientifically accurate
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Novelty item

Imagine being immersed within a star cluster or drifting through a nebula. If you want scientific accuracy, look elsewhere, for what you get with the BlissLights Sky Lite 2.0 is a mesmerizing ambient experience that makes up for in creativity what it lacks in scientific rigor. 

Designed for home offices, home cinemas, gaming rooms, spas, bedrooms and house parties, this laser-powered "galaxy projector" takes viewers on a journey through multicolored clouds. It uses an LED and a direct laser diode, which together create motion-filled RGB projections. Set-up is easy enough, with the round product having three ridges in its undercarriage that allows it to be set to project at three different angles, including upwards onto a ceiling. Positioning is further helped by a USB power cable, which means the Sky Lite 2.0 can be powered by a computer or from a portable battery.

This latest 2.0 version also includes the BlissLights smartphone app, which lets the user connect via Bluetooth then choose from seven built-in-effects modes, customise the projector’s intensity, the brightness of the laser, and the rotation speed. The app can also be used to create a custom colour blend. However, stars are always either green (if you buy the "Classic Green Stars" variant) or blue (if you buy the "Cobalt Blue Stars" variant). 

It’s all impressively otherworldly, for sure, but Sky Lite 2.0 is best put alongside the likes of a lava lamp in terms of what it tries to achieve. However, if a hypnotic journey through an imaginary nebula (or is it aurora?) is the effect you’re after, this star projector delivers. 


Create A Night Sky Projection Kit

(Image credit: Amazon)

10. Create A Night Sky Projection Kit

Scientifically accurate and great for the kids

Specifications

Dimensions: 215 x 170 x 600 mm
Weight: 0.39 lbs.
Max size of projection: N/A
Accuracy: Generic constellations for both hemispheres
Power: 4 x AA batteries
Special features: None

Reasons to buy

+
Scientifically accurate
+
An excellent learning device

Reasons to avoid

-
Back-to-front printed constellations
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Blurry projection

Sold in the U.K. as the Science Museum Create A Night Sky and elsewhere as the 4M Night Sky Projection Kit, this cardboard cut-out might not seem at first to be a worthy addition to our list of the best star projectors. After all, what’s on offer here is merely some small holes in cardboard positioned over a lamp. The resulting image is fairly basic, of course, but it’s how you get there that’s the clever part. 

This is a great learning device. The aim is to build a globe-like night sky that’s then projected onto the night sky, so before we even get to the stars, children are introduced to the concept of the northern and southern hemispheres. Then they need to create holes where the major stars are, hence being introduced to the major stars and constellations in the night sky. 

After that the hardware is pretty simple, too. A small lamp is provided on a square base, which requires 4 x AA batteries, which aren’t included. With a support fixed to each of the four corners, you then put the night sky domes over the lamp and — with the lights switched-off — the stars are both lit-up in front of you, and projected onto the walls and ceiling above. There are drawbacks, of course; the printed stars and constellations are back-to-front to ensure an accurate (but rather blurry) projection. It’s all fairly fiddly and time consuming, but that’s the point since it makes for an effective and affordable learning device. Just don’t expect anything more to result than a novelty night light for a child’s bedroom.   

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Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com (opens in new tab) and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (opens in new tab)

With contributions from