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Stargazing with Open Source – Three FOSS apps to help you search the night sky

by Rob Zwetsloot

Stargazing Live is currently airing on the BBC, and you can plan our your own evening of astronomy using these three amazing pieces of software

We love space exploration here at Linux User, and we’re always happy to hear of the way NASA is sticking to Open Government strategies and allowing people world wide to access their pictures and findings. With BBC’s Stargazing Live going on all week, we’re highlighting three of the best pieces of Open Source Software that will get you exploring the Universe.


Planetarium Stargazing Live
A great representation of the night sky

A good nights stargazing requires some planning, and Stellarium allows you to set your exact location and planned time so you can know when and where to look for all significant objects in the night sky. You can edit and manage labels so you can focus on planets, stars, or constellations. It’s also handy as a reference guide for when you’re out and about, letting you search for celestial objects virtually so that you can get an idea of its position in real life.


3D Space Simulation
Explore the Solar System

Boldly go and explore the unknown with this 3D simulation of the local Universe, with over 100,000 stars and star systems modeled in Celestia. As well as a manual search, a guided tour of the Solar System is available, from the heart of the Sun all the way to the planetoid Pluto and its moon Charon, and if there isn’t enough objects in the simulation, it’s easily extensible to add many many more.


Celestial Atlas Planetarium
Chart the night sky

Similar to Stellarium, Skychart gives you a suite of advanced tools to track all the major bodies in the night sky to a much more scientific degree than Stellarium can. With the ability to set your location and a planned time, you can also create custom charts to take with you for more focused observations.

Our sister magazine All About Space is having an Astronomy themed week over on their website, so be sure to check them out to find out the best way to get into stargazing.

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    • DigitalFreedom

      You forgot to mention one extremely good desktop planetarium: KStars:

      “KStars is free, open source, cross-platform Astronomy Software. It provides an accurate graphical simulation of the night sky, from any location on Earth, at any date and time. The display includes upto 100 million stars, 13,000 deep-sky objects,all 8 planets, the Sun and Moon, and thousands of comets and asteroids. In addition, it provides tools to perform many astronomical calculations, an observation planner, and lots of information and resources to help you explore the universe!”

    • Antonio

      Another good option is Nightshade, it can be found here

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