I'm trying to identify a cartographic package suitable for the production of astronomical (star) charts. The principal criteria are:

  • the package must render small sections of the sky as a two dimensional projection of a spherical coordinate system; for example, an area at the north or south celestial pole would be circular with radial lines of longitude, an area at the equator would be rectilinear.

  • the package must be able to plot coordinate lines, curvilinear in projection, with marginal labeling of coordinate values.

  • the package must plot individual stars using spherical x,y coordinates but also using "dot" icons for stars that vary in diameter according to the brightness of the star.

  • the package must be able to insert labels for stars and either manipulate them or allow them to be adjusted for clarity (prevent overlapping onto star images).

  • the package must be able to insert complex shapes, such as outlines of extended celestial structures.

As context, the areas to be mapped would be equivalent in terrestrial coordinates to roughly 30º of longitude (at the equator) by 30º of latitude. In high latitudes the sections would perhaps be 60º of longitude and appear trapezoidal, and at the poles the sections would appear circular.

I'm aware of and have used Stellarium; my original post was not clear. The goal is to produce star charts for a printed atlas or for digital image files such as PDF that can be printed or published as a book.

It's not feasible to print star charts that represent white stars on a black background. The standard sky atlas format is black or colored symbols on a white background. Stellarium also does not support labeling of double stars, because it does not contain a double star database.

The program should run on Mac OS.


1 Answer 1


You can almost certainly do all of the above with Stellarium:

  • Free - Libre & Open Source GPL2
  • Cross Platform Windows, OS-X & Linux
  • Sky
    • default catalogue of over 600,000 stars
    • extra catalogues with more than 210 million stars
    • asterisms and illustrations of the constellations
    • constellations for 20+ different cultures
    • images of nebulae (full Messier catalogue)
    • realistic Milky Way
    • very realistic atmosphere, sunrise and sunset
    • the planets and their satellites
  • Interface
    • a powerful zoom feature
    • time control
    • multilingual interface
    • fisheye projection for planetarium domes
    • spheric mirror projection for your own low-cost dome
    • all new graphical interface and extensive keyboard control
    • telescope control
  • Visualisation
    • equatorial and azimuthal grids
    • star twinkling
    • shooting stars
    • eclipse simulation
    • supernovae simulation
    • skinnable landscapes, now with spheric panorama projection
  • Customisability
    • plugin system adding artifical satellites, ocular simulation, telescope configuration and more
    • ability to add new solar system objects from on-line resources…
    • add your own deep sky objects, landscapes, constellation images, scripts…

Screenshot on Windows 10 of the basic user interface with constellations enabled and a star selected, location set to Weston-super-Mare, UK, FOV 60 degrees: enter image description here

With some of the options available: enter image description here

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