40+ Useful Desktop Planetarium and Charting Software

Not every day we can be so lucky to use our telescope. Perhaps we just need to prepare our observing session.

In both cases employing an astronomy software will make your life easier.

over 40 star charting and planetarium applications for desktop

Here’s a list – in no particular order – of some of the best virtual planetarium and star charting software available on the web.

Whether you are a stargazing beginner or an amateur astronomer, I hope there may be something that will bring your favourite hobby to the next level.

Feel free to share it with your fellow stargazers!

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an online sky/outer space viewer.

  • Stellarium : a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.

 a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.

  • AstroPlanner : a software application for Macintosh and Windows computers that facilitates astronomical observation planning, visualisation and logging, as well as control of telescopes with computerised go-to mounts or digital setting circle controllers.

a software application for Macintosh and Windows computers that facilitates astronomical observation planning, visualisation and logging, as well as control of telescopes with computerised go-to mounts or digital setting circle controllers.

  • Virtual Moon Atlas : visualize the Moon aspect for every date and hour and pilot computerized telescopes on the Moon surface. It permits also to study lunar formations with unique database of more than 9000 entries and a more than 7000 pictures library compiled by Christian Legrand.

visualize the Moon aspect for every date and hour and pilot computerized telescopes on the Moon surface. It permits also to study lunar formations with unique database of more than 9000 entries and a more than 7000 pictures library compiled by Christian Legrand.

  • Distro Astro : a Linux-based operating system for astronomy.

 a Linux-based operating system for astronomy.

  • AstroMB : a smart astronomical database for scientific research, especially the study of variable stars and other transient phenomena.

astromb

  • AstroViewer : an interactive sky map that helps you to find your way in the night sky quickly and easily.

AstroViewer

  • COELIX APEX : a sky mapping software, a generator of astronomical ephemeris, a virtual planetarium and a telescope control software.

a sky mapping software, a generator of astronomical ephemeris, a virtual planetarium and a telescope control software.

  • Cartes du Ciel / Skychart : prepare different sky maps for a particular observation. Draw sky charts, making use of the data in many catalogs of stars and nebulae. In addition the position of planets, asteroids and comets are shown.

draw sky charts, making use of the data in many catalogs of stars and nebulae. In addition the position of planets, asteroids and comets are shown.

  • Celestia : free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions.

free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions.

  • Celestial Maps : an astronomical software that produces accurate maps of the sky in five types of projections.

an astronomical software that produces accurate maps of the sky in five types of projections.

  • CyberSky : display and print attractive, highly-customizable maps of the sky as seen from your home, your favorite vacation spot, or any other location on the Earth.

display and print attractive, highly-customizable maps of the sky as seen from your home, your favorite vacation spot, or any other location on the Earth.

  • C2A : a Planetarium software that allows you to build detailed views of stellar fields. An important objective of this software is to take into account the main catalogues available to professional and amateur astronomers in order to prepare observations on small fields as well as astrometry and photometry works.

a Planetarium software that allows you to build detailed views of stellar fields. An important objective of this software is to take into account the main catalogues available to professional and amateur astronomers in order to prepare observations on small fields as well as astrometry and photometry works.

  • Deepsky Astronomy Software : a collection of observer friendly software tools designed to make your observing sessions more fun and productive.

a collection of observer friendly software tools designed to make your observing sessions more fun and productive.

  • Deep-Sky Planner : an astronomy software for Windows that helps visual observers and astro-imagers plan their observations, and log and manage the results.

astronomy software for Windows that helps visual observers and astro-imagers plan their observations, and log and manage the results.

 A Planetarium and Telescope Control Program for Windows

  • Electric Astrolabe : a fully animated planetarium program in the form of a planispheric astrolabe.

 a fully animated planetarium program in the form of a planispheric astrolabe

  • Guide : a full-featured star charting and desktop planetarium program. It generates charts ranging in size from a full hemisphere (180 degrees) down to one arcsecond, showing an extensive variety of celestial objects.

a full-featured star charting and desktop planetarium program. It generates charts ranging in size from a full hemisphere (180 degrees) down to one arcsecond, showing an extensive variety of celestial objects.

  • HNSky : controls your telescope via the ASCOM interface, has a comprehensive up to date deep sky database with 30.000 objects and detailed descriptions.

controls your telescope via the ASCOM interface, has a comprehensive up to date deep sky database with 30.000 objects and detailed descriptions.

  • MegaStar : includes 78,000 non-stellar object images from the Digital Sky Survey, that’s closely approximate to what you will see with today’s Dobsonian telescopes.

ncludes 78,000 non-stellar object images from the Digital Sky Survey that closely approximate what you will see in today's current Dobsonian telescopes.

  • MyStars! : a scientifically rigorous, yet fun and educational Windows astronomy program that simulates the sky and helps you visualize and locate the positions of stars, planets, comets, minor planets, and Messier (M) objects from any location on earth and any date/time from BC 2000 to AD 6000.

a scientifically rigorous, yet fun and educational Windows astronomy program that simulates the sky and helps you visualize and locate the positions of stars, planets, comets, minor planets, and Messier (M) objects from any location on earth and any date/time from BC 2000 to AD 6000.

  • Night Vision : a planetarium program that will display the heavens from any location on earth. Viewing options allow the user to control which sky objects to display, which font to use, and manipulation of various star parameters. Time may be set to run at multiple speeds, including backwards. Star charts may be printed.

a "planetarium" program that will display the heavens from any location on earth. Viewing options allow the user to control which sky objects to display, which font to use, and manipulation of various star parameters. Time may be set to run at multiple speeds, including backwards. Star charts may be printed.

  • SkyTools : a complete suite of software tools designed specifically for astronomical observing.

a complete suite of software tools designed specifically for astronomical observing.

  • Redshift : a group of educational planetarium and astronomy software packages that allow the user to observe the sky from a range of dates, print off data based on the observations and (in some versions) control a telescope.

a group of educational planetarium and astronomy software packages that allow the user to observe the sky from a range of dates, print off data based on the observations and (in some versions) control a telescope.

  • SkyMap : planetarium and star-charting program for Microsoft Windows. It can display the sky as seen from any location on earth for any date between 4000BC and 8000AD, showing fields of view ranging from the entire visible sky down to a detailed telescopic “finder chart” for a faint galaxy.

planetarium and star-charting program for Microsoft Windows 98 or later. SkyMap Lite retains all the flexibility and ease of use of SkyMap Pro but is designed to appeal to the novice, or the more "casual" astronomer who doesn't require the more sophisticated features of SkyMap Pro.

  • STAR Atlas PRO :  a spectacular Planetarium and Star Atlas packed with features for astronomers and stargazers of all levels.

 a spectacular Planetarium and Star Atlas packed with features for astronomers and stargazers of all levels.

  • Starry Night : sky calendar, event finder, identify your constellations, print 180° star charts, connect & control your telescope, record in the logbook.

sky calendar, the event finder, identify your constellations, print 180° star charts, connect & control your telescope, record in the logbook.

  • StarStrider : a software planetarium, a virtual space-ship, an advanced 3D star chart, a solar system simulator, and more…

a software planetarium, a virtual space-ship, an advanced 3D star chart, a solar system simulator, and more...

  • Stellaris : an astronomy software suite that runs on Windows. It is intended to be useful to hobby astronomers.

an astronomy software suite that runs on Windows. It is intended to be useful to hobby astronomers.

  • TheSky : an essential tool for observatory control, deep space imaging and scientific discovery, and includes the broadest range of advanced features to enhance your experience under the night skies.

an essential tool for observatory control, deep space imaging and scientific discovery, and includes the broadest range of advanced features to enhance your experience under the night skies

the only star atlas designed specifically for use with binoculars.

  • Where is M13? : a unique application that helps you visualize the locations and physical properties of deep sky objects in and around the Galaxy.

a unique application that helps you visualize the locations and physical properties of deep sky objects in and around the Galaxy.

  • WinStars : uses the latest 3D technology to show the objects of our solar system in a realistic manner.

uses the latest 3D technology to show the objects of our solar system in a realistic manner.

  • Voyager : includes millions of stars, clusters, nebulae, and galaxies visible only through powerful telescopes. It can be used to control computer-driven telescopes to show you what is actually being simulated on your computer screen.

includes millions of stars, clusters, nebulae, and galaxies visible only through powerful telescopes. It can be used to control computer-driven telescopes to show you what is actually being simulated on your computer screen.

  • Planetarium : an interactive sky map for exploring the stars and planets.

An interactive sky map for exploring the stars and planets.

  • KStars : provides an accurate graphical simulation of the night sky, from any location on Earth, at any date and time. The display includes up to 100 million stars, 13,000 deep-sky objects,all 8 planets, the Sun and Moon, and thousands of comets, asteroids, supernovae, and satellites.

provides an accurate graphical simulation of the night sky, from any location on Earth, at any date and time. The display includes up to 100 million stars, 13,000 deep-sky objects,all 8 planets, the Sun and Moon, and thousands of comets, asteroids, supernovae, and satellites.

  • Space Engine : a free space simulation program that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions, from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies.

a free space simulation program that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions, from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies.

  • Sky Safari :  a celestial travel guide, designed to help you explore the night sky. It is a powerful planetarium program that fits in your pocket, with thousands of stars, planets, and other objects at your fingertips.

 a celestial travel guide, designed to help you explore the night sky. It is a powerful planetarium program that fits in your pocket, with thousands of stars, planets, and other objects at your fingertips.

  • Night Shade : simulation and visualization software for teaching and exploring astronomy, Earth science, and related topics.

simulation and visualization software for teaching and exploring astronomy, Earth science, and related topics.

  • Planet Finder : an applet that shows the locations of the planets, stars, moon, and sun in the sky from any location and for any date and time.

applet shows the locations of the planets, stars, moon, and sun in the sky from any location and for any date and time.

  • Planisphere : a star chart analog computing instrument in the form of two adjustable disks that rotate on a common pivot. It can be adjusted to display the visible stars for any time and date. It is an instrument to assist in learning how to recognize stars and constellations.

a star chart analog computing instrument in the form of two adjustable disks that rotate on a common pivot. It can be adjusted to display the visible stars for any time and date. It is an instrument to assist in learning how to recognize stars and constellations.

  • Digital Universe Atlas : incorporates data from dozens of organizations worldwide to create the most complete and accurate 3-D atlas of the Universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe.

incorporates data from dozens of organizations worldwide to create the most complete and accurate 3-D atlas of the Universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe.

  • Universe Sandbox : a physics based space simulator. Create, destroy, and interact on a scale you’ve never before imagined.

Create, destroy, and interact on a scale you've never before imagined.

  • WorldWide Telescope : a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe.

a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe.

  • XEphem : a Motif based ephemeris and planetarium program for Unix-like operating systems.

a Motif based ephemeris and planetarium program for Unix-like operating systems

  • Aciqra : a free and open source virtual sky map and planetarium which tracks and displays astronomical bodies including planets, nebulae and stars to an accuracy of a fraction of a degree for thousands of years into both the future and the past.

aciqra

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4 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    Great article, I use stellarium a very good planetarium even for android too.

  2. mick says:

    Stellarium?

  3. florin says:

    Cool selection of tools, my favourite is sky safari. But have you tried the planner from http://deep-skies.com ? Is a simple but friendly web app for planning observing sessions.

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