Sunday, March 07, 2010

Stellarium Revisited (now with satellites)

I haven't looked at Stellarium for quite while so I decided to see what might be new. If you're not familiar with it, Stellarium is a great freeware (open source) planetarium program. I installed the latest version (0.10.3, January 2010) and was pleased to find that it now supports plug-ins, including one called Satellites that uses NORAD TLE (three-line elements) data to add many artificial satellites to the sky objects the program can display. I fast-forwarded the time to see what might be around near sunset tonight and found that the ISS will be making a visible pass from west to northwest between about 18:34 an 18:40 EST - it won't get very high for me on this pass but it's a clear night so I should be able to spot it through and above the trees. Of course there are other resources on the web like Heavens Above for finding ISS and other visible satellite pass data for your location, but this is an especially nice visualization method.

Stellarium is a great program, and the developers keep adding features and improving the interface. It's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

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