University of Michigan - Department of Astronomy

Version: SNstarChart


Creating and Printing a Star Chart in Starry Night

What star is that?

--Nearly any visitor to nearly any observatory



Starry Night is a software package produced by Imaginova, a company in Canada (hence some unusual spellings). The Pro version of the software allows users to see what the sky would have looked like to cave men, or what it will look like thousands of years in the future. It can also show you the sky from any major body in the solar system and from stars in our neighborhood. There are links within the program to information online for particular objects. You can use it to plan a detailed observing session to watch for specific events, or just to print a generic star chart. It can also direct a telescope. The other versions of the software, including the backyard version included with some text books have all the star chart and observing planning capacity for your lifetime, and are well worth pulling out of the cover of your text book. They just can't take you 10,000 years into the past, run your telescope, or take you to the Andromeda galaxy.

A brief overview of the software on the lab computers:

Although this is specific to the lab computers, most of the general information will work for any recent version and any installation of Starry Night. A description of all the functions is available at ../Comp/SNQuickRef.pdf.

SN iconOpen Starry Night by clicking the icon in the dock at the bottom of the screen.
By default it should open to now, in Ann Arbor (the default location for the computer lab), and running at real time. Most of the controls to change these things are available from the top toolbar. Options to change the display and functions like finding an object or event are available from the tabs at the left. See the pdf for full details on how to use these, especially the top toolbar.

Part 1: Printing a generic Star Chart

  1. Set the date and time to the date and time specified by your GSI (check the chalkboard!), or to 10 PM tonight. Stop the time flow.
  2. Set your field of view (zoom) to 180º and look to the zenith.
  3. Click the options tab to bring up all the display options.
  4. Click "Local Horizon" under the local View section to change the horizon. The flat horizon gives the best (but least realistic) view.
  5. Since solar system objects constantly move, and we're trying to do a generic star chart (usable any year at this time), uncheck all the objects under the Solar System section.
  6. Click on "Glob...strs" (that's globular clusters) under the Stars section. Click the checkbox next to "Constrain". double click in the Dimmer (magnitude) box and change the number to 8. Repeat for "Star...sters" (open star clusters). These are nice binocular objects. Make sure the checkbox next to each is actually checked when you are done. If this adds too many objects, you can change the constraints. 3 or 4 is a good limiting magnitude for open clusters (and limits you to clusters you can see naked eye)
  7. Under "Stars", click on "Limit by Magnitude" to bring up the Limit by magnitude dialogue box. This time, set the DImmer (magnitude) to 4 (this will get rid of the dimmer stars that can clutter up the star chart).
  8. Under the Deep space section, uncheck everything except the Messier objects. This will cut down on the clutter again.
  9. Generally, it's easier to read the star chart if you don't have any of the things under the constellations turned on. However, the stick figures can be useful. CLick on "Stick Figu......" to bring up the stick figures dialogue box. Try the different stick figures to see if you like any of them. It may be handy to ultimately print two charts, one with the stick figures and one without.
  10. Click the Options tab to collapse the Options pane.
  11. Under the Options Menu select "White Sky"
  12. To print, go to File -> Print. Under Print Settings, select "Use current settings", and make sure you are doing 1 Pane. The legend is the date time and location info for the star chart, and is up to you if you want to include it. Click OK
  13. You can preview it before sending it by clicking the Preview button.

Part 2: Finding Events and Planning an Observation

  1. Go to File -> New or press command+N on the keyboard to open a new document.
  2. Click the events tab to expand it.
  3. Make sure the Start Date is set to today. Change the End date to the last day of classes.
  4. From the drop down "Show" list, choose "Visible During Darkness"
  5. Click the Find Events button.
  6. If the list is too long, you can de-select some types of events using the Event Filters section at the bottom of the Events pane. For example, you may want to turn off the Jovian Moon Events because you have to observe those with a reasonably good telescope, or you may have a calendar that shows you the Moon phases so you don't need a special list for them. You will need to click the Find Events button again to refresh the list.
  7. Choose an event that looks interesting by clicking on it in the list.
  8. Check the "Start Time (Local)" in the Event Info section to see what time the event takes place.
  9. Click the "View Event" button in the Event Info section to have Starry Night show you a simulation of the event. This will not only show you what the event is, it can also help you determine whether or not the event will actually be visible from your location.
  10. To save the events, click the "Export" button. You can save the list as a text file and email it to yourself so you'll have a reminder (especially useful for observing projects!)

Last modified: 2/25/08 by SAM

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