A review of Stellarium has long been overdue… since I use it to plan all my astrophotography sessions.
Stellarium is a rich feautered planetarium app with a very realistic sky, available for Windows, MacOS or Linux and it’s free!
I use it frequently for searching new objects for photography. It’s fun!
If you want use Stellarium to plan your sessions you have to define a few basic settings.
Add your location first (Shortcut: F6).
Set your place by selecting it from the list or, if your place is not available, simply enter your coordinates, altitude, name/city and add it to the list.
Find your coordinates quickly with Google Maps. Just click on the map on your place and follow the coordinates listed in the little box at the bottom on Google Maps. You’ll find the coordinates in the left info box.
To make all more realistic simply add a landscape similar to your place (Shortcut: F4, Tab “Landscape”).
You can also add your own landscape if you’ve a 360° image of your backyard but I never tried it…
Always Save Your Settings
Don’t forget to save always your settings (configuration window – Save settings) before you close Stellarium. The current field of view will also be saved so if you restart Stellarium you’ll have always the same view.
Deep Sky Objects Preview
Many deep sky objects are implemented visually very nice and offering detailed information like size, magnitude or distance.
Add your equipment for simulations (top right corner icon). Specify all your telescopes, DSLRs and lenses.
I also add equipment I plan to buy to see how the pictures would look with it.
Important: Add your DSLR lenses to telescope section! Otherwise you’ll not be able to select them in the simulation.
Detailed technical information about your equipment can be found on the net. Here are two pages with specifications of various camera models.
Now you are able to simulate your photography sessions.
Select an object and click on the second icon in the top right icon box.
To switch through your equipment simply click on the arrows next to it.
The field of view can be rotated by clicking on the rotation angles -15°, -5°, …, +5°, +15°
Read more how to find objects with the Star Adventurer and Stellarium. Locate DSO without Go-To.
Observing List / Favorites
Press Alt + B to open the observing list and add your favorite deep sky objects. Once activated the highlighting, you see immediately all the objects highlighted in the sky, in any zoom level.
To backup your observing list(s), simply save the file observingList.json located in <YourUserFolder>\AppData\Roaming\Stellarium\data. Most probably you’ll have to enable view hidden files and folders in your Windows Explorer settings to unhide the AppData folder.
Solar System Exploration
Explore our solar system out of different angles. Select a planet or moon and press Ctrl + G and you’ll take a giant leap 😉
Note: it works only in our solar system!