Explore the night sky with Stellarium

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Number Cruncher

Once you find out that an interesting object is traversing the sky, you might want to see what the object looks like in a particular telescope or sensor attached to a camera. Stellarium can help you here as well. You can get optical data from telescopes, oculars, and image sensors on the Oculars dialog. Click the Configuration window's Plugins tab and choose Oculars on the left. Click the configure button at the bottom to open the Oculars dialog (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Oculars dialog lets you zoom in on celestial objects as if with your own equipment.

Next, select a device from the various tabs: General , Eyepieces , Sensors , Telescopes , and About . Among this collection, you'll find common settings, settings for existing oculars, sensors (cameras), and telescopes, as well as the usual recommendations from the author.

Enter the values on the tabs to fit your ocular equipment. The setting is preserved for each time that you choose Ocular view (Ctrl+O) for a selected object. With Alt+O, you can activate the ocular device, either an ocular or a telescope, then use Ctrl+O to toggle the ocular view.

Figure 5 shows how the software captures the Andromeda galaxy with an 80EDF telescope.

Figure 5: M31 shows up as if in an 80EDF telescope with an ocular width of 40mm. For more photorealism, you could remove the labels.

Clicking an object calls up its astronomical data in the upper left at the time and place of view. The important data apart from the catalog designation (e.g., M31 and NGC224 ) includes its light magnitude (3,50 ) and size (2°58'00" ).

Both light magnitude and size are meaningful descriptors to experienced amateur astronomers in that they indicate how well the object can be observed under meteorological conditions. The smaller the magnitude, the brighter the object. The size is in reference to the angle at which the object appears to the naked eye. It should be mentioned that the ocular tool only works with a selected object. You can also find objects with the Search window tool (or press F3).


Astronomy is among the oldest sciences with many myths surrounding it. If this interests you, Stellarium is a good starting out point for further research. Use F4 to configure the display accordingly. You can specify how to display stars on the Sky tab, determine whether to use stereographic projection on the Markings tab, and select a moonscape as the background on the Landscape tab. The Starlore tab provides insight into numerous cultural perspectives on astronomy (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Stellarium shows the stars in the context of global cultures. For Western starlore, you can add constellation art to the celestial display.

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