What if you could bring the night sky inside? The best star projectors create a similar awe-inspiring environment in your home. They fill walls and ceilings with stars, constellations and more to create an immersive experience that can spark imaginations, add a fun vibe to a party or help you drift off to sleep. They are all easy to set up and use but star projectors come in many shapes and sizes, and suit a range of budgets as vast as the night sky itself.
Like most products, with star projectors, you generally get what you pay for. While those at the more affordable end of the market tend to concentrate on filling rooms with lights and color and mostly novelty-style ambient projections, the more you pay, the more scientific accuracy you get and the closer you get to a planetarium-style experience. If the intended recipient is a child with a keen interest in the night sky, go for the latter as they are more impressive and educational.
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 control this projector with our voice with Alexa and Google. During our Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector review we were impressed by its sleek design that's sure to delight many: it's modern and compact, which allows the user to place it pretty much anywhere in the household. There are even four angles to adjust this unit to, so it's versatile enough to project either onto the wall or ceiling from your chosen surface.
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.
Not only is the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector easy to sync up for seamless voice control, but you can also change the colors, modify brightness and adjust the speed just by speaking. There's also the option to issue commands through your smartphone 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 various 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 that distinguishable.
The only downside with the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector is that the nebulas and stars aren't scientifically accurate. Still, we enjoyed the experience so much that we didn't feel short-changed. We were particularly delighted with the option to be able to change the speed of the projection along with the brightness, making this device an excellent tool for creating a relaxing ambiance or a lively party scene.
The Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector comes with a USB power cable and attractive packaging, which would be lovely to receive as a gift.
It's a one-two in this list for Encalife products, and once again, we're not sure what we love most about this feature-rich Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Star Projector (opens in new tab). You can choose from 16.7 million Aurora colors and can do it easily by controlling the device with your smartphone, the supplied remote control, or the buttons on the device itself. This Northern Lights projector is compatible with all Android and IOS smartphones. You can customize the visibility of the stars, full moon activation and the 'Aurora Borealis' colors to suit your mood. The LED light and green lasers are adjustable from barely visible to highly vivid.
During our Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Star Projector review, we were impressed with the musical rhythm mode. It does an excellent job of changing the lighting display to match the 'feel' of the music, and the sensitivity of the microphone can be adjusted for a more or less intense light display, this is ideal for parties.
The speaker is of surprisingly high quality for a small Bluetooth speaker, and you can even change the sound settings to complement the style of music you are listening to, a nice touch.
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, scientific 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 on your projection surface, you'll see 60,000 stars — many more than its competitors.
This globe-shaped product excels with the sheer number of distinct stars it projects, and it has some tempting science-based upgrade options. The Homestar Flux comes 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 to aid with learning. There are a further 17 Sega-branded disks available 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, although in our review we explained how we'd like this to be at random intervals, or in a different place each time so it isn't as predictable. It has an automatic switch-off after 15, 30 or 60 minutes function.
Go to Astrial, Sega Toys' official online shop and you can choose from 30 more disks. Simulation of the aurora borealis 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 and the weird seven-star system called Jabbah (officially called Nu Scorpii and IC 4592) as imaged by NASA's WISE mission. You can also buy disks that simulate fireworks, 'night jellyfish' and a hot-air balloon festival.
The National Geographic Astro Planetarium is a high-quality indoor planetarium for a reasonable price that accurately represents the night sky and 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.
The buttons light-up blue, which makes it simple to rotate the image and adjust the focus wheel in darkness. The result is a bright and sharp projection on the ceiling (the optics are from German optics brand Bresser, which makes binoculars, telescopes, and microscopes). However, stars at the edge of the projection can seem blurry. One novel feature is an optional "falling star" mode, which projects a flashing meteor every 40 seconds, though always in the same place.
In the box are four educational posters, three AA batteries, and a 3.5 mm jack cable, the latter of which can is to hook up a smartphone or other audio device to play through this star projector's small mono speaker. It also acts as an FM radio if you want to listen to music or soothing sounds while you stargaze indoors.
Although not as garish-looking as the Bresser-made National Geographic Astro Planetarium (opens in new tab), 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 the other featuring overlays of constellations, and it's all entirely accurate for the time and day you're using it.
Best used to project from two 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 shut down after 30, 60 or 120 minutes, which is useful if it's intended for a child who wants to fall asleep under the stars in their bedroom.
It's also got a falling star mode, which can be activated to project a 'meteor' every 40 seconds.
The Bresser Junior Astro-Planetarium Deluxe differs from the National Geographic Astro Planetarium in that it doesn't include an integrated FM radio or the ability to attach an audio device. That's a handy difference if you don't want that functionality, although it doesn't have too much of an impact on the price.
Here's a star projector that is a more serious astronomical device than some, 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 any portable battery source — helpful, for example, if you want to place it in the center 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 it to be time and day specific, 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 recognize, though it does include the arc of the Milky Way.
It's suitable for anyone after a decorative night sky projection but not necessarily effective as a learning device.
The resulting 'space night lamp' boasts a plethora of additional disks. In the box is an Earth/Moon/Sun disk, but there are further discs that you can purchase separately that show 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 it 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.
Compared 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 colors — blue, green, white, red — users can blend the shades via supplied remote control and adjust the brightness to suit.
We are impressed with the high-quality build of this compact star projector. Its sleek, black coloration allows it to blend in with many home decors and, what's more, it also doubles up as a music device, allowing users to play their favorite music or sounds while watching galactic shades dance around their ceiling and walls. When we reviewed this star projector, we found the speaker to be surprisingly high quality, with no 'tinniness', and despite the poor quality packaging, the unit itself is well built, and the lights are bright enough to create the desired ambiance or party atmosphere.
You will need to set up your phone's Bluetooth before you begin, but this is a seamless experience, with the device being up and running within moments.
Like the Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Projector, you won't get scientific accuracy, but you'll get a fantastic 'insomnia-busting' experience that allows your children (or yourself) to sleep better at night.
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 night sky stars across the ceiling and walls. With the default planetarium slide, you can make the stars rotate and move, and use them either as the sole image or as a background to 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 an educational poster.
It's something intended 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. It's very simple to use, extremely affordable and will suit undemanding users with low expectations. As such, it's best suited to young kids who've expressed an interest in space but not those interested in the detail.
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. When we reviewed this star projector, we found it very easy to set up and liked its faff-free operation. The round product has three ridges in its undercarriage which means it can be set to project at three different angles, including upwards onto a ceiling. It uses an LED and a direct laser diode, which together create motion-filled RGB projections. Portability 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 and choose from seven built-in-effects modes, customize the projector's intensity, the brightness of the laser, and the rotation speed. You can also use the app to create a custom color 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).
Unlike some other models, during our review, we found the BlissLights Sky Lite 2.0 to be near silent in its operation, great if you're using to get to sleep, or whilst watching a film, It's all impressively otherworldly, for sure, but Sky Lite 2.0 is best compared to the likes of a lava lamp in terms of what it tries to achieve. If a hypnotic journey through an imaginary nebula (or aurora?) is the effect you're after, this star projector delivers.
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 tiny holes in cardboard positioned over a lamp. The resulting image is pretty basic, of course, but how you get there is the clever part.
This is a great learning device when assembled with a guardian, as we discussed in our review. The aim is to build a globe-like night sky that lights up and projects the constellations. 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 (using a sharp tool) where the major stars are, hence being introduced to the major stars and constellations in the night sky.
The hardware is pretty basic. A small lamp that requires 4 x AA batteries (not included) on a square base. With a support fixed to each of the four corners, you place the assembled night sky dome over the lamp. With the lights switched off, the stars are both lit up on the globe itself and projected onto the walls and ceiling. There are drawbacks, of course; the printed stars and constellations are back-to-front to ensure an accurate (but somewhat 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 time filler and a novelty night light for a child's bedroom.
How we test the best star projectors
In order to guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best star projectors to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every star projector through a rigorous review to fully test each product. Each star projector is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as a star projector and whether it provides accurate night sky imagery.
Each star projector is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each star projector and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use. For example, comparing a top-of-the-range star projector from one of the largest producers of star projectors to a make-your-own kit made from cardboard wouldn’t be appropriate, though each star projector might be the best performing product in its own class.
We look at how easy each star projector is to operate, whether it contains night sky imaging technology, if a device can synchronize with audio and we’ll also make suggestions if a particular star projector would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best viewing experience possible.
With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on star projectors, advising on whether you should purchase a product or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.