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.

Tutorial – use Stellarium to find the Humanity Star satellite

First, you have to use the satellite database which is available in the Configurations > Plugins section of Stellarium.

Click on the wrench with the star, then click the Plugins tab, then scroll down until you see “Satellites” in the list on the left.

Stellarium configuration panels showing the satellites plugin which is needed to track the Humanity Star (it is a satellite after all)
Stellarium configuration window showing the satellites plugin.

Update the satellite data

Once you have done that (be sure to check “Load at startup” you will have a list of satellites to choose from. However, there are new objects launched into space every day, so this plugin has a button that says “Update Now”

Stellarium can hep you find the Humanity Star
Update the satellite list to get all the newest satellites – including the Humanity Star.

Search for the Humanity Star

Now, open the Search panel in Stellarium and type Humanity Star and hit the return key on the keyboard or click the magnifying glass button.

Stellarium search panel showing the Humanity Star as a findable object
Open the Search panel and type Humanity Star. Stellarium will find it.

Stellarium will highlight the Humanity Star. Hit the space bar to lock it into the view.

Time lapse

Now that Stellarium has locked the Humanity Star into the view center. You can speed up time by tapping the “L” key on the keyboard a few times. This will speed up the clock and show you where the Humanity Star is traveling in the sky.

Stellarium Humanity Star in the Constellation Cygnus in March 2018
Stellarium Humanity Star in the Constellation Cygnus in March 2018 as seen from the New York Metropolitan Area.

Location, Location, Location

Editor’s Note: In the comments below, a visitor (thanks, Hector!) – who used these instructions to successfully find the object – says that you should try to establish a very accurate location in Stellarium. You should do this before locking in on the positioning and tracking of the Humanity star. I completely agree!

Make sure you use the “Location window” to enter your exact latitude and longitude – this will be helpful for all observations in Stellarium, but will be especially important with a low earth orbit object like the Humanity Star.

Predicting the brightness (magnitude) of the Humanity Star

By using this website, you can enter your location on Earth (in the top right of the page choose Location) and track many satellites and get predictions for when they will fly overhead.

The Humanity Star is one of several “satellites of special interest” so you can click on the link and see flyover predictions with magnitude estimates.

According to the satellite tracking website “Heavens Above” the Humanity Star is not one of the brightest objects in the sky. In the second week of March 2018, it ranges from magnitude 4.1 to 8.4. Magnitude 4.1 is just barely visible to the naked eye in light polluted suburban skies, but magnitude 8.4 is basically invisible under all normal viewing conditions.

This table shows the visibility and brightness prediction for the Humanity Star satellite
Table of predictions for the New York metropolitan area Humanity Star visibility and brightness.

I would love to hear if you were able to use these directions to find and see the Humanity Star in your area!

Clear Skies. Happy Humanity Star satellite hunting with Stellarium.

5 Replies to “Stellarium – Find the Humanity Star”

  1. I struggled to find the Humanity Star on the sky for several months, until last Sunday (March 11th 2018), when I finally saw it (from Blaasveld, Belgium), all thanks to your directions!

    I installed the Stellarium, which I do agree is an amazing piece of software, followed the instructions, and there was the Humanity Star almost touching one of the Ursa Major stars (Phecda) at 19:46:19 of that day as predicted! It was shinny enough that night, visible to the naked eye even when the sky was not yet fully dark. It cruises across the sky rather fast, so it is easy to miss or to take for a high-flying plane, and the Stellarium gave a good idea about the speed, time, path and location relative to know stars or constellations.

    One important thing is to enter your location as accurate as possible (use a GPS or get coordinates from Google maps); do not use e.g. the location of the center of your city, as that will introduced a small (but visible) error in the trajectory or position of the Humanity Star. The second most important thing: be on time and use an accurate clock!

    The Stellarium allowed me to identify a second satellite (USA 186) that passed just about 1 second later, following a rather close path.

  2. Hello Hector!

    I am glad to hear your observation was a success. And thank you for the suggestion about getting very precise location established. I will add your suggestion to the article.

    I found it surprising how dim the object was reported to be by the heavens-above tracking site. However, it sounds like you had no difficulty finding it after the position was shown in Stellarium.

    Daniel

  3. I could find the humanity star with stellarium a while back but now I’m surprised I seem to be unable to find it anymore in despite I have checked all the available source to update the satellite plugin, anyone else has the same issue?

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