Seeing The Zodiac – A Stellarium Script Tutorial

🔭 I am a Live Planetarium Presenter – “Planetariumist” – at the Fresh Air Fund’s Gustafson Planetarium at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY. We Planetariumists are learning to use Stellarium scripts. This article will teach you how to use a Stellarium script to quickly load the art images for the 13 Zodiac constellations:

Aries Taurus Gemini 
Cancer Leo Virgo 
Libra Scorpius (Ophiuchus) Sagittarius 
Capricornus Aquarius Pisces
Inside view of Daniel Cummings presenting Stars are Alive at Gustafson Planetarium at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY
A selfie from inside the Gustaffson Planetarium at the Fresh Air Fund Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY

Online Camp programs for Astronomy Education

Like every other camp program during COVID-19 times we have had to move the live shows to an online format. In our case we are doing zoom astronomy presentations for the campers. It’s been a great experience to learn how to do quick and entertaining astronomy shows online and I wanted to share a few tips to make better astronomy online presentations.

Stellarium Scripts for Astronomy Zooms

I want to make Stellarium really work for online presentations like zoom astronomy outreach, so I figured out how to write scripts to control it. To get started, I just copy-pasted and modified an existing script that did something like what I wanted it to do.

Zodiac Art in Stellarium showing the Sun “in” Gemni on July 8, 2020 from Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY

Stellarium scripts help you do the tedious set up and configuration steps. There is no need to open windows and drag and click around while your audience waits!

Below is a Stellarium script I adapted from the original zodiac.ssc that highlights the Zodiac constellations with art, names, and boundaries and it shows the ecliptic. The original script that comes with Stellarium had some features that I didn’t need so I copy-pasted a new one. My new script simply shows the Zodiac constellation art in just 5 seconds. This would take at least a minute to complete by hand! So, this is a great timesaver if you are presenting to a group via online zoom conference.

Stellarium Script – show Zodiac Art, Boundaries, Ecliptic

You can click here to download the script as a zip file. Unzip this download and you will have the .ssc file in your downloads area. Or you can just copy-paste the text below and create your own script file.



Here is a quick gif animation of what the presentation screen looks like while loading the Zodiac Art Boundaries and Ecliptic in the Stellarium Astronomy Zoom presentation.

An animated GIF showing the end result when you install the new Zodiac script.

Using the New Zodiac Art Boundaries and Ecliptic Script – Tutorial

Installing scripts is as easy as creating a text file with this script and placing the “script_name_here.ssc” file in the scripts directory. In this case, name your script file: zodiac_art_boundaries_ecliptic.ssc

After this “Zodiac Constellation Art Boundaries Ecliptic” script is installed in your Stellarium you’ll be able to get to it and run it from the Scripts tab of the Configuration window.

Screenshot of Stellarium script configuration window.

Instructions to Install a Stellarium Script

On Windows: You have to find the Stellarium User Data directory and inside that will be the scripts directory. (NOTE: I don’t have a windows machine so there is probably more information required here. Please add a comment to this post if you discover that I have left something out.)

C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Stellarium

If it doesn’t already exist, create a new folder named “scripts” – leave out the quotes.

Windows file explorer view of where to place the script.

Move your downloaded or created .ssc file to this folder.

On Mac: you have to control-click (hold the control button and click the mouse) the Stellarium.app in the Applications directory and choose “Show Package Contents”

Screenshot showing how to use control-click access Stellarium Scripts in MacOSX

You then navigate to the scripts directory in: Contents > Resources > scripts.

Screenshot showing how the directory path to Stellarium Scripts in MacOSX

Place the script file in the scripts directory. Quit and re-open Stellarium and the script will be in the list of scripts in the Scripts tab of the Configuration window (see graphic above earlier in the article).

If you want to be fancy and use the included key command …

Using Stellarium Script Trigger “Sequence” commands

This custom Stellarium Script comes with a key command I programmed which is a “sequence command” – two steps. First do Control/Command-D, then release those keys and type the letter z key.

Try out the script and let me know what you think by typing in the comments field below! Also, if you want me to write a custom script to speed up your Stellarium presentations I’d love to help out – give me your suggestions.

Stellarium is a potent tool to help you see the sky

I have written few other articles about using Stellarium.

Stellarium – a gift to Humanity – Learn to see the sky

Time Travel with Stellarium – See the sky in timelapse!

Stellarium and the Humanity Star – a short-lived satellite

See the Analemma with Stellarium

About the author of this Stellarium script tutorial

🔭 Hello! I am Daniel Cummings – the creator of the fun and fashionable science clothing The Moon Hat (Forbes named it Best Science Gift in 2018). I am also one of the Live Planetarium Presenters – “Planetariumists” – at the Fresh Air Fund’s Gustafson Planetarium at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY. I’ve written about and presented astronomy and space topics since 2008. Sign up on my email list to hear more about astronomy and space.

Japanese robot will land on the asteroid Ryugu

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft visits the Ryugu asteroid

Update! June 24, 2018 – Haybusa2 has reached Ryuga. See this EarthSky.org article for more information.

I just received this wonderful message from a group of students in Japan (thanks to Patricia McGahan for providing the connection!) who are learning and teaching about the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission to the Ryugu asteroid.

(Welcome to Japanese language visitors and link to Japanese Wikipedia page.)

ようこそ!ここでは小惑星竜口へのはやぶさ2宇宙ミッションについて教えてくれる東京の高校生からの素敵なプロジェクトについてのあなたの情報です。

はやぶさ2ミッションのためのウィキペディアのページ。

Sugo-Haya2 Hayabusa2 JAXA mission English language version of the board game

These Japanese high school students created a board game (in Japanese and English) to teach people about an amazing Japanese spacecraft called Hayabusa2.Click here to continue reading…

GPS uses Quasars

GPS uses Quasars to work

GPS uses quasars to get its own position
GPS satellite in low Earth orbit. Credit: NASA artist’s impression
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is precise.

That precision originates in a mind-blowing place!

GPS signals tell billions of people where they are each day.

GPS helps pilots land planes and captains steer ships.

GPS signals stamp locations onto millions of photos.

GPS gives you driving directions.

But, where does GPS get its own GPS?

The GPS for GPS

How does GPS know where a GPS satellite is?Click here to continue reading…

Stellarium – Find the Humanity Star

A new satellite called the Humanity Star looks like a disco ball

Update Apr. 1, 2018.

The Humanity Star is no longer an active satellite – it has fallen out of the sky: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/22/17144208/rocket-lab-humanity-star-satellite-new-zealand-astronomy

However, even though the Humanity Star is now gone, this article still teaches you how to load satellites into Stellarium. So, read on for a quick tutorial on how to track any satellite in Stellarium.

Looking for information on how to track the Humanity Star any satellite location using Stellarium astronomy software?

Here is a quick tutorial on how to find the Humanity Star any satellite using Stellarium.

You can track the position of the Humanity Star with Stellarium
The Humanity Star satellite before launch – still on the Earth.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck announced that the company’s rocket had placed a special satellite in a 90 minute orbit around the Earth.

A lot of people want to see this new “star” in the sky. Stellarium can help you do that.

If you don’t have Stellarium, you can download a copy here. And I have a few tutorials that can help you get started with this amazing piece of software.Click here to continue reading…

Stellarium – a Gift to Humanity

Hello! Find out more about Stellarium in this tutorial that introduces several of the cool and clever things this astronomy software can do.

An image of the winter sky showing the Full Moon near the constellations Orion, Taurus, the Big Dog (with the bright star Sirius), and the Little Dog (with the bright star Procyon).
An image of the winter sky showing the Full Moon near the constellations Orion, Taurus, the Big Dog (with the bright star Sirius), and the Little Dog (with the bright star Procyon).

Stellarium – a glorious gift to Humanity in software form – gives you super powers. And best of all … It’s FREE!

Superpowers!

Always wanted to know the names of the stars and constellations? You can search, play, pan and zoom, examine, compare and anchor your knowledge.

It’s a cloudy night? No problem. You can see through the clouds

Wished that the sky had labels on everything? Stellarium has 10 different label types.

Stop time? Move time by day, by week? Do you want to see what will happen in 2 months? Or look at the sky during the Pharoah’s reign? You can time travel.

You can easily drag and zoom, stop time, go in reverse, make a timelapse, follow the moon through its phases. You have a tool to help you understand the ecliptic and sidereal time and retrograde motion. You can see the great orbital swing of Venus as it circles the Sun.

Ok! I’m convinced by your Stellarium review. What should I do now? What’s my call to action?

Get a copy of Stellarium.

You can download it here.

Stellarium is a free, easy to use, and powerful tool – and best of all (did I mention this already?) it’s FREE and easy to use.

I will write some specific tutorials about my favorite parts of Stellarium in 2017, but for now… go get it and play!

You will be able to see things about sky objects and movements that are impossible to see live. But, once you have seen them with the help of Stellarium, the sky will open up for you – like a gift.