Stellarium Planetarium


Stellarium’s “Satellites” plug-in (under the “Plug-Ins” tab) plots the positions and movements of an impressive array of artificial satellites. To enable it, check the box, restart your program, press ‘Configure” and follow instructions provided by Stellarium.

The program also allows the identification of historical novae and supernovae with skycultures using rigorously researched identification patterns (name+number+constellation pattern), an impressive feature.

What is a Stellarium?

Stellarium is a free and open-source planetarium program for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows that combines an ultra-realistic night sky simulation with an extensive online imaging library and sky object catalogs. It offers realistic sunset and sunrise effects and atmosphere effects; zooming in on planets or the Moon yields photo-like images; stars twinkle as meteors pass overhead and even includes stunning horizon vistas to inspire your imagination!

Landscapes, star patterns and equatorial and azimuth grids can be personalized for you to create the ideal simulation. It demonstrates stars, constellations and deep sky objects such as galaxies as they would appear through telescopes of certain size and resolution – including eclipse simulation. You can drive it using either mouse clicks, keyboard arrow keys or roller wheel on mouse to zoom in and out; or use up and down buttons or roller wheel on mouse to zoom. Alternatively you can use Ctrl+up+arrows combined with up/down arrows + Ctrl+cmd+ up/down arrows + space bar + up/down arrows + Ctrl+cmd on Mac) plus up/down arrows + up/down arrows + up/down arrows + up/down arrows + up/down arrows + up/down arrows + up/down arrows + up/down arrows + space bar centered target before zoom controls can zoom controls are used.

Stellarium can sync up with your computer’s date and time automatically, showing an artificial daytime sky until you change it manually. Or you can set it to start at any given date/time by using the Navigation Tab of the Configuration Window (F2).

Plug-ins that add extra features or content are available for download, allowing you to install only those you need or uninstall any that don’t fit.

Once Stellarium has been configured, it’s relatively straightforward to use. You can control it with the mouse and click objects for information, map types and hotkey shortcuts can all be displayed using F4, while its Sky and Viewing Options window (F4) allows users to control how stars appear in the sky; whether as single points, doubles or multiple systems.

How do I use a Stellarium?

Stellarium is an extremely flexible program. One can use it to learn about the sky, plan observing sessions or imaging sessions and identify celestial objects observed with telescopes.

To maximize the experience with Stellarium, it is wise to familiarise yourself with its basic features and functions. For this, read over any pre-lab questions attached on Cobra before class begins as well as experiment with shortcut keys (like F1 for fast forward time movement or L for faster forwarding of time).

Stellarium can simulate the sky at any location on Earth; to do this, click a map, select a city or town from its list, or enter an exact longitude and latitude value. Next, use the compass icon in the lower right-hand corner to adjust direction of view (the default setting being due south).

Stellarium makes learning the constellation lines easy by clicking the third button from the bottom menu or pressing R, which displays illustrations of patterns associated with each constellation name. For further customization, the File > Settings option in the main menu allows for changing various settings such as which deep sky object catalogues to flag, changing foreground scenery settings and selecting culture-specific star names or constellation patterns that should be displayed.

The Satellites plug-in provides another useful function, allowing the user to quickly download orbital data for any of the many manmade spacecraft currently present in our solar system. This tool is especially helpful for tracking movements such as those associated with International Space Station and geostationary satellites as well as any iridium flares visible from Earth.

The final advanced feature that many find helpful is ‘Equatorial and azimuthal Grids,’ which enables users to generate maps of the sky at any time, date or location – especially helpful for astrophotographers wanting to plan for photographing specific spots around their location.

How do I set up a Stellarium?

Stellarium is an astronomy program for computers or planetarium domes that is highly customizable, allowing you to change its view, add labels and control how fast time moves (by default, Stellarium moves the sky one second per second). Stellarium can serve both students learning astronomy in school and astrophotographers planning observing sessions effectively.

Stellarium begins by asking you to choose a date and time, which you can do either by clicking the digital clock in the bottom right corner or accessing the “Location” window by pressing F6. Here, you can select an earth location or use search to quickly find it on a map. Pressing J pauses or slows time while L speeds it up; to return back to current date/time press 8.

Once the date and time have been chosen, it’s time to explore the sky! Zooming can be done using page up/page down keys on your keyboard or using a roller wheel on your mouse; click/drag is another method.

Stellarium makes it easier to locate objects by providing an organized list of constellations visible at a particular date and time, along with their coordinates. You can also select any planet and view it across the sky; should there be any moon nearby you can also take note.

Stellarium offers an exciting feature, which allows users to experience seeing through Earth by searching for Polaris. Furthermore, you can adjust the sun, moon and planet positions using Stellarium’s position menu.

The ‘Satellites’ plug-in is especially helpful for astrophotographers, as it enables you to download and plot orbit data for an unlimited number of satellites from various lists. Once plotted, these satellites can then be tracked through the sky including International Space Station and geostationary satellites; their bright points of light moving against the stars replicate how one might see them through a telescope.

How do I add objects to a Stellarium?

Stellarium contains many objects by default, but if your telescope or eyepiece is missing from its list of available objects it’s easy to add it. Just press F2 or click the Configuration button, navigate to Plug-Ins tab of Solar System Editor, click Import orbital elements in MPC format… button at bottom of window then Gideon van Buitenen; comets option will appear before typing out name (C/2020 F3) into search list at bottom.

Once an object has been selected, it will appear in a window and can be adjusted using mouse cursor or keyboard commands to be moved, enlarged, or reduced as necessary. You may also change its background using images available in the background menu or create your own by uploading photographs or astronomical maps as backgrounds.

Use the mouse cursor to navigate around the sky, zooming in or out by a small amount. Clicking left mouse button selects an object while right button deselects, with spacebar centered to centre selection on screen. Displayed information may include type, magnitude and sky location (RA/DE or Az/Alt).

Other keyboard actions include showing constellation lines (C), labels and art forms (V); adding the equatorial grid (E); ‘seeing through” the ground (G); showing cardinal points (Q); disabling daylight effects (A); displaying galaxy names (N) and planet names (P); as well as moving an object to center the screen.

Press ESC to close