Astronomy chart software programs are incredibly attractive for people of all ages, because you don’t have to be an astronomer to understand the appeal of celestial objects and visualizing astronomy elements, in general.
Therefore, we have selected the 4 best astronomy chart software tools that you can use to immerse yourself in outer space, freely roam the universe, discover planets and stars that you never heard about, and ultimately gain new knowledge on astronomy.
Celestia is a free and open-source 3D space simulator. It gives you the possibility to freely explore planets, stars, moons, galaxies, asteroids, comets, spacecrafts, constellations, and nebulae. The software tool can also display astronomy charts.
Navigating space in 3D in Celestia feels like playing an open-world game, especially since you use mouse and keyboard controls to move, change the camera orientation, orbit around objects, look behind, track objects, control time, toggle labels, and perform additional actions.
To get a better idea of the program, you can run a demo that takes you on a tour to Earth, the moon and sun, Jupiter, and a star system. We suggest switching to fullscreen mode first.
And, if your hardware supports it, turn on anti-aliasing, maximize the texture resolution, and increase the ambient light to obtain the best graphical conditions.
You can take screenshots and record videos, get more information on solar systems and stars, find eclipses in the universe, select the type of celestial bodies to render, as well as increase or decrease the number of visible stars with the press of a key.
Celestia also lets you add bookmarks to later review your favorite parts from outer space.
And, if you’re interested in more interactive tours like the demo integrated in the program, you can find other scripts online made by the Celestia community, complete with subtitles.
The only thing missing is an audio feature, which would’ve worked great with deep space music or educational voice recordings.
- Easy on your PC’s resources
- Free and open-source
- Key-board controlled exploration
- Not as many features as a premium product
Stellarium is another free and open-source Windows application that provides you with a 3D planetarium for your PC. It can also be used as an astronomy chart software solution.
The program takes a unique approach, allowing you to watch the sky from Earth in 3D and in full screen, as if you were using a telescope or binoculars, or just observing with the naked eye.
It has more than 600,000 stars, 80,000 deep-sky objects, and 20 constellations registered in its standard catalog, together with nebulae images. But you can access over 177 million stars and 1 million deep-sky objects in an extra catalog.
A search tool is put at your disposal to help you easily identify celestial objects. You can also change coordinates, switch to a different location and time zone, and perform various astronomical calculations.
Stellarium shows a realistic representation of the Milky Way, sunrise and sunset, the planets with their corresponding satellites, comet tails, star twinkling, equatorial and azimuthal grids, eclipses, and various 3D sceneries.
It can also simulate novae and supernovae, as well as show you the sky at day or during the night, thanks to atmosphere settings. And, if you are interested in extra functionality, you can take advantage of the application’s plugin system.
For instance, you can add ocular simulation, telescope configuration, new solar system objects, landscapes, artificial satellites, and constellation images.
- Free and open source
- Detailed space charts
- Simulates day and night cycles
- The UI is almost non-existent
- May need a tutorial on how to use properly
SpaceEngine has more in common with Celestia than Stellarium, but it takes everything to a whole new level. It’s a 3D space simulator that’s more a game than a program. And it includes astronomy chart software solutions, too.
Featuring an interactive 3D planetarium, SpaceEngine is science-based and goes to great lengths to accurately portray the entire universe. The most interesting aspect is that it uses procedural generation for rendering the uncharted areas of the universe.
You can freely roam orbital landscapes, planets and moons, the deep space, photo-realistic celestial objects, and even spaceships. The scenery is actually breathtaking.
And you can also apply mods, such as galaxies and nebulae, HD close-up textures of planets, spaceship models, or custom-made solar systems. It’s even possible to build your own star or planet.
Using exploration tools, you can get complete information on celestial bodies and surroundings, navigate a map of stars, find out the composition of each planet, and get an overview of the planets, sorted by size.
The newest edition of SpaceEngine has VR support and must be purchased through Steam. However, you can download and install older versions for free.
- Offers VR support
- Feels like a game
- Mod compatibility
- Not for those seeking professional tools
Solar System Scope
Solar System Scope isn’t as feature-rich as other astronomy chart software solutions on this list. But it’s still entertaining. It facilitates a 3D simulated environment of the solar system and night sky, complete with celestial bodies.
You can freely roam our solar system and get technical information about any planet or star, including composition, distance, galaxy, and structure, along with convective and radiative zone.
When exploring the encyclopedia of a body, you can switch to night sky mode to see where you would have to look to locate the body and how it is positioned compared to known planets.
A simple catalog is put at your disposal for exploring the solar system, night sky, planets, stars, Messier objects, and nearby star systems. Sound effects and background music are included, but you can turn them off.
As far as viewing options are concerned, you can control what you wish to display in the map when it comes to stars and their names, Messier objects and their names, star position lines, scale grid, as well as distance names and lines.
The online version of Solar System Scope is free to use. There’s an offline mode, too, which comes with a free demo. The main difference is that the offline version has superior graphics.
You can also download new high-resolution textures for free, which are based on NASA elevation and imagery data.
- Great 3D design and navigation
- Great for calculating the trajectory of celestial objects
- The online version is Free
- Comes with an offline mode
- The downloadable client is not free
Conclusion on astronomy chart software
With Celestia and SpaceEngine, you feel that you joined a sandbox video game, where you can freely roam the universe.
Stellarium gives an accurate representation of the sky as seen from Earth, while Solar System Scope focuses on objects from our own solar system and the neighborhood, too.
Whether you need to work on an important astronomy project for school or just take a break and lose yourself in outer space, you can look into the astronomy chart software tools on this list.