KStars: A Desktop Planetarium for KDE

The KStars Team is pleased to announce the latest stable snapshot release of KStars, the powerful graphical desktop planetarium for KDE. Recently featured in Linux Magazine, KStars displays an accurate representation of the night sky as seen from any location on Earth, on any date, including all of 40 000 stars, 13 000 deep-sky objects, all planets, the Sun and Moon, and 2500 comets and asteroids. KStars has an intuitive interface that makes it easy
for anyone to explore the night sky.

The program works like a virtual
observatory; you can pan and zoom the display just like a telescope.
You can also identify and track objects as they drift across the sky,
download beautiful images from the internet, and browse topical
webpages for more information. The simulation clock can be paused,
and the rate that time passes can be changed -- you can even make time
run backwards.

New features in this release include:

KStars is a part of the KDE Edutainment Project.

Dot Categories: 


by Anton Velev (not verified)

The entire virtual universe looks amazing!
Kongrats Jason, this is really a big and hard work!

by George Staikos (not verified)

I must add a congratulations too. I was impressed when I saw the first versions of this a while back. It's something I always wanted to see in KDE, but never had the time to help with. I'm lost without my star guide from my old Palm Pilot, but this is far more impressive.

For those interested in astronomy, either as a hobbyist or a professional, KDE is a great platform to start porting the old astronomy apps and writing new ones. It would be great to see some IRAF enhancements in KDE, such as a kgterm, kimtool, etc. Also an IRAF cl syntax highlighter for Kate.

by Gentu (not verified)

There is a bug that happens on my Red Hat Linux 9 and KStars under Gnome. I don't know which program's fault is, but I know that it happens only when KStars (latest version) is loaded on my [email protected]@75Hz Gnome desktop, with the "nv" 2D driver.
So, the problem is that when KStars is loaded (not maximized), all the other apps are really slow! Even typing on a text editor is slow! It just slows down everything, until I minimize or close down Kstars!

Any ideas from the authors? Thx.

by Psiren (not verified)

I think KStars uses OpenGL. If you're using the 2D driver, then that rendering is being done in software by mesa. It's probably grabbing all the cpu time it can get, which is why the other apps will be slow. Try running some other OpenGL programs and see if you get the same problem. You could use NVidia's supplied drivers which perform very well for 3D, unless you're a "free software only" type of person, in which case you'll just have to live with it. Them's the breaks.

by LMCBoy (not verified)


We don't use OpenGL yet, so that can't be the issue. I used to have a problem where my X server would eat all of the CPU when KStars was opened, which sounds similar to what you are seeing. Try running 'top' while kstars is running, see if it's X that is using the CPU. You might try upgrading to this new version.

Send me an email (kstars AT 30doradus DOT org) or open a bug if the upgrade doesn't work.


by Peter (not verified)

What about making it a screensaver also? So when running as a screensaver KStars starts in fullscreen mode. Would be nice

by EK (not verified)

Or a wallpaper?

by Sangohn Christian (not verified)

Yes!!!! Like QtVision does it when it goes desktop mode (TV picture as wallpaper/on root window)

That would be nice!

by a.c. (not verified)

Can't wait to see that.
Unfortunatly, QTVision does not seem to find devices on mandrake 9.0

by Richard Moore (not verified)

Sounds like you don't have the Xv extension loaded in your X server. This is a common error and is in the README file.


by LMCBoy (not verified)
by Christophe Teyssier (not verified)

[shameless self promotion]

If you like KStars and if you have a 3D card check out Celestia:

you can download RPMS for Mdk 9.0 and Suse on SourceForge

An rpm for Mdk 9.1 is available in the contrib folder of Mandrake mirrors.

You can browse the handbook (in development) here:

by LMCBoy (not verified)

Celestia is awesome. It's definitely been an inspiration for KStars.


by Christophe Teyssier (not verified)

Actually the star info in the RMB popup menu in Celestia is directly inspired from KStars, so thank you too!

I was thinking of having some integration with KStars too, like a [Point this object in KStars] entry in the popup menu. Does KStars has a DCOP interface?

by LMCBoy (not verified)

> Does KStars has a DCOP interface?

It sure does!

Does celestia have one?

by Christophe Teyssier (not verified)

No, not yet but we already have a script language so it should be easy to add.

by dr_lha (not verified)

I was actually using this program to help me figure things out while using the Keck telescope in Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately one feature that I would really like (perhaps its there but I couldn't find it) is the ability easily add new objects. I know that its possible to load them from a text file - but I couldn't figure out the format that was needed and it would be really nice to have a dialog box for doing a quick-and-dirty addition of a new object.

Really nice program though. :-)

by LMCBoy (not verified)

Having a GUI for adding custom objects is a good idea. In the meanwhile, you can find details about the custom-file format in the file README.customize. Basically, each line consists of colon-delimited fields:
TYPE : RA : DEC : MAG : "Name of Object"

by Dr_LHA (not verified)

Yes - it was really just a matter of timing. I needed to get an answer quickly so thought I'd give kstars a try. When I found out that I couldn't do it quickly I used another program so never really investigated the text format. I was a little rushed at the time, Keck time is valuable :-)

by Dr_LHA (not verified)

TYPE : RA : DEC : MAG : "Name of Object"

BTW - another quick question: Can I assume by the feature above that you don't use proper motions when calculating star positions? What kind of accuracy can one expect from kstars: minutes? seconds?

Thanks again.

by LMCBoy (not verified)

We don't yet use proper motions. We correct for precession/nutation/aberration/atmospheric refraction. Minutes?! That's harsh, man :) The positions of stars are as good as the SAO, modulo the lack of proper motions, which is only going to matter for a handful of stars, and only for dates far from the present day.

by dr_lha (not verified)

Hehe - sorry about that! Congrats on the Hubble Fellowship BTW.

by Tim (not verified)

... because it's one of my favorite things to show people, really a slick piece of software. My astronomy is about as strong as my astrology (;)), so I do little besides enter a location and look at all the pretty dots, but the location db is very complete, it's great to see that even many smallish U.S. cities are listed.

Kids like it, too! :)


by Mary Ray (not verified)

What a wonderful tool for people... well done, Jason. I know that you worked hard on this. Hope lots of people will use it.