University of Michigan - Department of Astronomy

Version: Intro

Introduction to Starry Night

What if the Sun
Be Center to the World, and . . .
The Planet Earth, so steadfast though she seem,
Insensibly three different Motions move?

--Milton, Paradise Lost



You may want to check out the Quick Tips for the Mac (pdf) before doing this lab.

Details of commands not used in this lab can be found in the Starry Night Pro quick reference

Getting Started

Open Starry Night

Starry Night iconClick the icon in the dock, double click the icon from the open applications folder, or right-click (control-click) the applications folder in the dock and select Starry Night Pro.

It should open with a view of a realistic landscape and either blue sky (daytime) or stars.  There should also be a menu bar and a tool bar at the top, and a set of tabs along the left side.

Screen top

Check your set up

By default, it should open to Ann Arbor and Now, whenever that is. 


You can change the location using the “Viewing Location” area or the toolbar. The “Home” button should take you to Ann Arbor. Click the down arrow and select “Other” to select another viewing location. An window will open with a list of known locations, or you can select a location by clicking on a map or entering the coordinates.

Location drop down
Select a location

Date and Time

Time and Date controlYou can change the time using the “Time and Date” area of the toolbar. To change the month, click on it to highlight it, then use the arrow keys to scroll through the months. To change the numbers, click to highlight the number, then use the arrow keys or type the number you want. Click on the AM/PM and the AD/BC to toggle them.  Hit <enter> <return> or <esc> when you are done.  The “Now” button returns you to now.  The “sunrise” and “Sunset” buttons take you to sunrise or sunset for the date set in the window above the buttons.

Moving around the sky


Pointer Selection menuThe simplest way is usually the “Adaptive" tool: click on empty sky and drag to move around (Caution: the adaptive tool does other things if you click an object). The fastest way is to type the major directions: N, S, E, W and Z (zenith) or use the N, E, S and W buttons under the “Gaze” area of the toolbar. Holding the space bar after changing your view will move there instantly instead of panning. Two other tools can get you around. With the "Hand" tool, you can click and drag anywhere in the view window. The "QTVR Tracker" (for Quick Time VR) lets you go faster than the hand tool.

Using the Find function

Find and mark an objectFind and Center on an objectTo find a specific object, press command (apple) + f or click the “find” tab and type the name of the object in the text area.  To go to that object, click the arrow to the left of the object’s name and select “center”.  To have it label the object, click the check box

To zoom in and out use the + and – buttons under the “Zoom” area of the toolbar, or use the "Magnification" tool: click to zoom in and shift-click to zoom out.  You can also click the down arrow in the zoom area and select from a set of standard FOVs (fields of view).

Identifying Objects

ToolsInformation list

With the Adaptive tool you can identify individual objects simply by placing the mouse over them. A HUD with information about the object will appear. You can also specifically choose the "Arrow" pointer.


You can click an object to select it or Find an object, then switch to the "Info" tab to view information. If you use Find, check the checkbox next to the correct object to select it, the click the info tab.

Constellation Labels

If all you want are names, there are lots of different label options under the Options tab.   Select the Options tab and scroll to the appropriate section. Click the “labels” check box next to everything you want labeled

For example, to label the constellations, scroll down to the “Constellations” section and check “Labels”

Guides and linesImportant Guides and Lines

These are controlled by the “Guides” section of the options tab

The alt-Az coordinate system will display the local meridian (“meridian” ) and zenith and nadir (“poles”) and the grid based on those references.

The RA-dec coordinate system is under “Celestial Guides” and will display the North and south celestial poles (“poles”), the celestial equator (“equator”) and coordinate grid.

The equinoxes and solstices are shown by checking their checkboxes.

The ecliptic is the “Equator” checkbox under the “ecliptic guides section.

Setting things in motion

Stopping and Starting

time flow rate controlThe buttons underneath allow you to stop, start, and step time forward or backward.

Changing the Interval

Time Flow Rate menuThe “Time Flow Rate” area controls motion.  Default is set to real time. Click the down arrow to change this

Go to the the worksheet if you are doing the full lab

Last modified: 5/17/07 by SAM based on TheSky lab

Copyright Regents of the University of Michigan.