Explore the night sky with Stellarium

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Time Machine

The time of observation is an important setting. You can't get around it when you want to prepare for the moment of observation or represent historical astronomical events (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Date and time can be set for any astronomical event you want to capture.

Whether you want to see a Venus transit, eclipse, or conjunction, just enter the date and time, and Stellarium displays the event. You can set the time, for example, to the Venus transit of June 3, 1769 [3], as seen from the North Pole. If desired, you can work from historical observations and compare them with contemporary reports.

Buttons below the date and time on the bottom tool bar allow for slowing or speeding up, moving in, or pausing time to study a particular moment of a phenomenon. You can pause by clicking the triangle icon; it changes to the double bar familiar to users of video recorders. The other speed controls are also familiar.


Stellarium provides some useful help to prepare for an observation or photo session. The program shows great potential based on the growing number of its co-designers. Many observers are especially interested in what objects will appear on a given night. That leads naturally to the question about what equipment is the most suitable for observing the desired objects.

If you turn on Planet labels (P) and Nebulas (N) from the tool bar, you'll see the planets with name labels, and nebulae and galaxies as yellow objects, with or without labels depending on size. The shape of the object tells you something about it. You can recognize globular clusters (a circle with a cross), open clusters (a circle), and close clusters (a dotted circle).

As soon as you start scrolling around an object (or press PgUp or PgDn), you'll get a closer view of it (Figure 3). The number of visible objects grows considerably if you take the extra effort of subsequently downloading catalogs on the Configuration window's Tools tab.

Figure 3: Zooming in on an object marked in yellow shows an impressive view. Shown is an enlargement of the Great Nebula in Andromeda (M31) with its neighboring galaxies.

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