Stellarium is a software project that allows people to use their home computer as a virtual planetarium. It calculates the positions of the Sun and Moon, planets and stars, and draws how the sky would look to an observer depending on their location and the time. It can also draw the constellations and simulate astronomical phenomena such as meteor showers, and solar or lunar eclipses.
Stellarium may be used as an educational tool for teaching about the night sky, as an observational aid for amateur astronomers wishing to plan a night's observing, or simply as a curiosity (it's fun!). Because of the high quality of the graphics that Stellarium produces, it is used in some real planetarium projector products. Some amateur astronomy groups use it to create sky maps for describing regions of the sky in articles for newsletters and magazines.
The development of a powerful scripting system has been continuing for a number of years now and can now be called operational. The use of a script was recognised as a perfect way of arranging a display of a sequence of astronomical events from the earliest versions of Stellarium and a simple system called the Stratoscript was implemented. The scipting facility is Stellarium's version of a “Presentation”, a feature that may be used to run an astronomical or other presentation for instructional or entertainment from within the Stellarium program. The original Stratoscript was quite limited in what it could do so a new Stellarium Scripting System has been developed.
Stellarium is under fairly rapid development, and by the time you read this guide, a newer version may have been released with even more features that those documented here. Check for updates to Stellarium at the Stellarium website.
If you have questions and/or comments about this guide, please email the author. For comments about Stellarium itself, visit the Stellarium forums.
Notes for version 0.12.x
This document described release version 0.12.x of Stellarium. The 0.12.x series bring a lot of significant changes to the project - in both the underlying structure of the program code, and in the outward appearance. The most obvious change from the 0.9.x series of releases is the new user interface.
Because of the scale of the changes in this release, a few key features of older releases are not included as they are still waiting for a new implementation consistent with the changed structure of the program:
• Specifically, the ability to run the older Stratoscripts. This feature is not truly practical with the new structure although some of the scripts, files with the subscript *.sts, can still be run if the Stratoscript read feature is added at compile time. However it is far more practical if these scripts are re-written in the *.sss format.
• The implementation of a DSS background. This was actually included in a test branch and the code is still present. It was shown to be practical in a Stellarium derivative called “Virgo”. However this requires a repository for the immense database and it has so far been beyond the resources of stellarium.
Version 0.10.1 introduced a replacement scripting engine with many features not found in the Stratoscript engine. As of version 0.12.x, this is still in development but is finished to all extents and purposes however new commands may be added from time to time. Eventually, a compatibility layer will be implemented which should allow on-the-fly translation of Stratoscript to the new engine, but this is not implemented yet.