The best star projectors can bring the night sky inside. They create a similar awe-inspiring environment in your home as they do outdoors under the stars. They fill walls and ceilings with stars, constellations and more to create an immersive experience that can spark imagination, add a fun vibe to a party or games room, 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, with various levels of scientific accuracy, and the price brackets from one to the next can be vast.
Quick tips for choosing a star projector
1. If you want it to be scientific, 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.
5. Decide if you want to control it with a remote or an app
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.
The good news is, with Black Friday fast approaching (November 25) and retailers holding wide-spread discounts, more and more of the best star projectors are likely to become available. Early Black Friday deals are also often available, so if you’re looking to grab one of the best star projectors out there or purchase one as a gift, now could be the best time to do so.
Here at Space.com, we’ve cast our eye over the market for the best star projectors, reviewed a number of them, and rounded up the best for bringing the stars, planets and galaxies into your home.
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The best star projectors in 2022
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. A further 17 Sega-branded disks are available to 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, 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.
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 without ruining the aesthetic. 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.
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.
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 we confirmed during our National Geographic Astro Planetarium review.
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.
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.
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.
When we managed to get our hands on this little guy for our Astronaut Starry Sky Star Projector Review, to be honest, we weren’t expecting much from what appears to be a novelty item with a price that vastly fluctuates between online and in-store retailers. This is probably because so many retailers are selling it, there seems to be a ‘price war’ between them. We’d consider anything less than $35 a bargain!
This is the only novelty-shaped item in this guide so far, and that is because, often, such things aren’t very good quality. This is an exception. The packaging is a bit disappointing, and would benefit from having a redesign, but the design and build quality of the projector itself are fantastic, and it wouldn’t look out of place in any space lover’s house, regardless of their age.
The operation of the motor is veray smooth and quiet, so it would be fine as a night light to drift off to sleep. As we mentioned in our review, the lighting module seems to be the same — if just a tiny bit less impressive — as other star projectors we have reviewed, including the BlissLights Sky Lite 2.0 and the Encalife Atmosphere Smart Galaxy Star Projector. They are by no means scientific, but they can be customized using the supplied remote control to a speed and color configuration to suit you.
The only thing we didn’t like was that it is powered by DC cable, which seems a little outdated, but aside from that, it would make an excellent gift for any space lover this Christmas. We expect it will be reduced this coming Black Friday, so keep your eyes peeled for an even better price.
Having completed a recent Brainstorm Toys Deep Space Home Planetarium and Star Projector review, we feel this projector deserves a place in this buying guide as it is an excellent STEM toy that will engage children aged six and up and — we think — inspire their curiosity into all things space.
It is aimed at children, and the stars aren’t at all scientific like you would find on the more ‘adult’ Sega Homestar Flux. Still, it features a slide projector and three easy-to-handle discs containing 24 color images taken by NASA and the Hubble Telescope. Each disc has a theme; Nebulae, Spacecraft & Astronauts, and Planets & the Moon.
Operation is hands-on rather than digital, although additional informative descriptions of the pictures on the slides can be accessed online using a supplied ‘secret code.’
Considering the low price is an excellent investment for homeschooling or simply learning about space with your child.
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.
This is an unusual entry on our list, given that it only has one single function. That said, we have included it in this guide, as an inexpensive ‘faff-free’ star projector, though as we discussed in our BlissLights Starport USB star projector review, we use the term star projector loosely.
It looks, feels and operates like a USB flash drive, but it isn’t. It is a tiny star projector that — when plugged into a USB power supply — emits hundreds of single-color laser stars (you’d have to purchase more than one if you wanted to pick between different color lasers), instantly changing the whole ‘feel’ of a room into something more exciting and space-like.
While it lacks scientific accuracy or any other purpose, it is a discrete, affordable and high-quality device that throws out visually impressive lasers to transform your environment while using negligible power.
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 BlissLightss Sky Lite 2.0 review, we found it to be near silent in its operation, great if you’re using it to get to sleep, or whilst watching a film.
The Sky Lite 2.0 is best compared to the likes of a lava lamp in terms of what it tries to achieve. This star projector delivers if a hypnotic journey through an imaginary nebula (or aurora?) is the effect you’re after.
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 Create a Night Sky Projection Kit 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 and what to look for
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 is here to ensure you get the best buying advice on star projectors, advising on whether you should purchase a product, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.