How to print a star chart from Stellarium?

Posted by Greten on 03 May 2013 under Tools

Despite its array of several functions, Stellarium does not provide any icon or shortcut key that would allow you to print star map on paper. You might have your own reasons why you would like to print your star chart instead of just bringing a laptop with Stellarium installed. The most basic and easiest is to just take a screenshot of Stellarium, insert it in LibreOffice / OpenOffice Writer or any  word processor, and then print.

However, if you want to print a star chart such that (1) you can see in it all the  heavenly bodies visible in the sky and, (2) you do not end up consuming lots of ink due to Stellarium's dark interface, you need to do it the long way as I explain below.

Confuguring to see the chart for the stargazing session

  1. Freeze Stellarium in time by clicking either the left (reverse) or right (forward) double arrow until the icon between them turns into double rectangle 'pause' icon. The default is that Stellarium is flowing at normal time pace so clicking the reverse icon once will stop time.
    Clicking an icon to stop time in Stellarium
  2. Press F6 to open the Location window. Then, search the city or town where you will conduct your stargazing session or input its latitude and longitude.
  3. Press F5 to open the Date and Time window. Enter the date and time when you will be conducting your stargazing session.
  4. Close both the Location window and the Date and Time window by clicking the X button at the corner.

Confuguring view to see all celestial bodies in the sky

  1. Press Z to see the Azimuthal grid.
    Stellarium azimuthal grid
  2. Drag the screen with mouse pointer to see the center of the grid; the center of the circles in which the lines intersect. No need to do this if the center of the grid is already in view.
  3. Click the center of the grid. There must be a star or something in it (you will know it if some data saying magnitude, hour angle, etc. appear on top left corner). If there's none, click on the area around and near the center and you will be able to click on something. Stay close to the center as possible when clicking.
    Clicking the center of azimuthal grid in Stellarium
  4. Press the Space Bar to center that celestial body, and the center of the grid with it.
  5. Drag the chart or screen such that the Azimuthal grid are still concentric circles and the north direction is up, south direction is down, west direction is right and east direction is left. THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL.
  6. Right-click anywhere on the screen so the data on the upper-left part will disappear.
  7. If some parts of the grid are outside the viewing window, press the Page Down key or use the mouse wheel to zoom-out so you can see all concentric circles in full view.

If you do steps (e) to (k) correctly, you should see the grid is now arranged as concentric circles with straight lines emanating outward from the center. The center of the grid is now also the center of the interface.

Stellarium with all celestial bodies in the sky visible

I mentioned that step (i) is crucial. It is important for us to reorient our star chart this way. In a map of towns, cities, countries, etc. the convention is that north is up, south is down, east is right, and west is left. However, in star charts, west and east are in places opposite of that of the map. The reason is that you are viewing a map from bird's eyeview, from above. On the otherhand, you view celestial bodies from below. Thus, star charts are oriented as if you are viewing at them from below.

Confuguring to spend less ink

  1. Press F4 and configure the View options as follows:
    • In the Sky Tab, uncheck the Show Atmosphere.
    • In the Markings Tab, check the Constellation configuration that you would like to apply. Scroll-down on Projections and select Orthonographic.

    Shown here how to set Stellarium to occular view

  2. Close the View options.

Preparing for printing

  1. Get a print screen of Stellarium using CTRL+S; the screenshot is saved in the Home folder or whatever folder is specified in Screenshot Director. You can view and modify this by pressing F2 to open the Configuration window and going to Tools tab.
  2. Open LibreOffice/OpenOffice Writer and set the page to landscape by clicking on the top bar Format » Page and then selecting Landscape in the Page Style window.
  3. On the top bar, click Insert » Picture » From File. Then, access the directory where the screenshot was saved and select the screenshot to be inserted on the page.
  4. Resize the screenshot to fill the page, or whatever size suits your need.
  5. Click the picture to select it. The filter icon will appear (encircled in red). Click it and select Invert (the half-black half-white circle-in-rectangle icon).

Inverting the colors of Stellarium screenshot in LibreOffice

This is it, now you have a star chart ready for print. Note that we Invert the colors so that the dark dots now represent the stars. We did this to conserve ink. You can save the document for later printing or just print it right away.

Finished Stellarium chart

Last updated on 04 May 2013.

Learn from others
Frank Aquino says:

Just wanted to thank you for these comprehensive instructions. I’m fairly computer savvy, but I doubt I’d have worked out this convoluted method for printing a chart. You’d think Stellarium would offer a button to do the same. Still – it’s a fabulous app for free, so I’m not complaining. Many thanks again,
Frank Aquino

Greten says:

You’re welcome. I know it’s very complicated. This was written in 2013 so I’ll revisit Stellarium later and see if I need to update this post.

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