Astronomy with an online telescope
Astronomy with an online telescope

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Astronomy with an online telescope

1.2 Setting your location

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_aot_1_video_week1_2_stellarium.mp4
Skip transcript


As I hope you're realising, the Stellarium programme is an extremely powerful piece of software. It's essentially a planetarium in your computer. And I very much encourage you to explore the full functionality that it has. For now, we'll guide you through some of the basics of that functionality. We have a menu down at the bottom that will allow you to select which objects you actually see on the screen. So you can decide to have a starry field, or you can decide to have a starry field that is entirely labelled for you with the constellations marked out. And you can even show the constellation art, if you into the ancient Greek mythology, or indeed, mythology of any other culture.
But the most powerful aspect of Stellarium, when it comes to planning your observations, is your ability to wind forwards and backwards through time. You'll be able to have a look at when an object you're interested in is visible, when it's above the horizon, when it reaches its zenith-- which, of course, is the ideal moment to observe it. And you can very quickly and easily match what you have on your screen to the night sky above you, or of course, when you're planning your observations for Coast, to the night sky that Coast will be seeing. So make sure you set your location correctly within Stellarium.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Stellarium can show what the sky will look like from any position on the Earth. From different points on the Earth’s surface, an observer would be looking in different directions out into space, meaning that the sky will look very different in Australia for example than it does in the United Kingdom. In order to get a view on the screen that corresponds to the sky where you are (or in Tenerife, where the COAST facility is located) it is important to specify the location.

Important: When started, the Stellarium software takes up the entire screen, covering up any other windows you may have open (including this website). On a desktop or laptop computer, you can use the F11 key to switch between full-screen and a windowed view of Stellarium. Alternatively, or if you are working on a mobile device, you may want to make separate notes or print out the instructions for each activity so that you can continue to work while the screen is filled with the Stellarium display.

Having started the software, the location you wish to use can be specified using the Location window.

Activity 1 Setting your location

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

If you are planning to look at the night sky where you are, it would be best to set the location to your own home town or location.

For the main part of this module you will be planning and making observations using the COAST telescope in Tenerife. For this purpose it makes sense to set the location to Tenerife, as follows:

  1. Move your mouse to the lower left-hand side of the Stellarium screen. The main menu, consisting of a vertical line of icons, will appear.
  2. Click on the icon at the top of this menu (an eight-pointed symbol representing a compass rose) to open the Location window.
Described image
Figure 3 The Location window
  1. The right-hand side of the Location window contains a list of pre-set locations. To set the location of the COAST telescope, type ‘Teide’ into the search box (indicated by a magnifying glass symbol) and then select ‘Teide Observatory (Tenerife), Spain’ from the resulting list.
  2. Tick the box labelled ‘Use current location as default’ at the bottom left of the Location window. You can now close the location window using the ‘x’ at the top right.

Stellarium will remember the location and use it each time the program is started. Of course, you can also change the location as often as you like so when not working with COAST you may want to set the location to your home or favourite observing location instead.

Note: if you are using Stellarium on a mobile device some of these controls will be in a different place. Start by tapping on the six white squares in the lower left corner of the screen, and then the three-bar menu. This brings up the Settings menu from which you can adjust the location.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371