Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stellarium: A Realistic Sky in 3D

If you have been looking for an easy way to teach astronomy to your students, Stellarium is the answer. This open source software turns your classroom into a planetarium by displaying a realistic 3D sky on your interactive whiteboard. Stellarium can also be used with a computer and projector.

The Stellarium program was created by Fabien Chereau, a French research engineer and computer programmer. It can be downloaded for free by anyone and allows users to input their individual coordinates so the displayed sky is as realistic as possible.

Planets, major moons, and more than 600,000 stars can be viewed with Stellarium. The program also displays constellations from ten cultures and realistic images of the atmosphere, sunrise, and sunset. In short, you can see everything that you can and can't see with your naked eye or telescope.

Stellarium is such a good program that there are several planetariums around the country that use it on their projectors. The best part about it, other than the fact that it is free, is that it is simple to use. Stellarium works on virtually any platform (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and provides an easy-to-use interface that allows you to zoom, choose projection options, and control what your students see. The program also has a record feature that allows you to play back shows at a later date.

If you do have any problems with Stellarium, you can consult the extensive user guide or get answers to your questions on a special forum set up specifically for this purpose. You can also make suggestions on the Stellarium site to help improve the program and influence future updates.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online school for

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Anonymous said...

Oh wow! I will definitely be downloading this. My Hubby said he has it on his laptop, he is taking a graduate level astronomy class and his professor recommended it. Being a science lover myself, this is a must have for me!

Wizzo said...

A great recommendation. I use stellarium with my class of 8 to 10 year olds (in the UK no less). Great feature is the link to ancient cultures amd alternative names for the planets. |I have used these recently in work on ancient Greece and ancient Egypt.