Stellarium

stellariumSC

A screen grab of Stellarium on the Jupiter system. Click for larger.

Stellarium 0.12.3 is a very nice planetarium program you can download for free. You will get a great rendition of the night sky in 3D. You can zoom easily so a representation of a naked eye, binocular or telescopic views are a snap. Click on an object and you get a wealth of information about the object. You know what I DON’T like about Stellarium 0.12.3? It will not run on my Mac with OS-X 10.5, if you too use that software don’t worry you can get an earlier version that will work just as well (see the link below and go to “other releases”). Works like a charm on my Windows laptop. BTW, I can control my telescope with it too so it’s pretty advanced. Here is the list of the recommended operating systems and set-ups:

  • Linux/Unix; Windows XP/Vista/7/8; 64-bit OS X 10.7.0 or greater
  • 3D graphics card which supports OpenGL 2.1 or greater
  • 1 GiB RAM or more
  • 1.5 GiB on disk

Nice thing is you don’t need a telescope either. You can load in “scripts” or create your own for tours of the sky or what ever you want. I’ve actually been using Stellarium for years and highly recommend it. Read more and download the program at Stellarium.org.

A couple of things you will want to do when you get your copy: Set your location, you can do this by pressing “F6″ or accessing a menu located in the lower left of the screen (you will see the placeholder for it). If you live in Paris you will be all set, that’s where it seems to be by default. Either use the provided list of locations or get your GPS coordinates from Google Earth or the like. You will also need your elevation in meters to be very accurate. When you are finished you can set that location as a default.

The other is the Time. Press “F5″ or use the menu (icon is the second one down, just below the location icon). Mine defaulted to the computer clock. That will get you going quickly. You can use the same menus to temporarily change your location and time if you want. I like to “visit” the Southern Hemisphere skies.

The user guide is located on a Wiki and you find it helpful for getting the most out of the program.