Sparkling gems and new releases from the world of Free and Open Source Software


KStars 2.6.0

Stellarium is such a great piece of astronomy software that it's difficult to remember there are several other important projects that take a different look at the stars, and KStars is one of the best. It's been in development for almost as long as KDE has been a desktop, and perhaps because it's bundled as part of KDE's Education metapackages, it doesn't often get the credit it deserves. The project is still being actively worked on, and version 2.6.0 is hopefully an update timely enough for autumnal distribution releases. What makes KStars such a nice tool is that it's good at finding stars and astronomical phenomenon, rather than simulating a view of the night's sky. It still supports up to 100 million stars, 13,000 deep sky objects, and thousands of comets and asteroids, but it won't try and immerse you in a different environment. This means that it doesn't have the same resource requirements, or the same distractions, which makes it better suited to classes, for example, or for running on older hardware.

One of the best things about KStars is that its data sets can be kept up-to-date in ways that other applications can't match. KDE's integrated plugin download actually works, for example, unlike with some other KDE applications, which means you can easily augment KStars with extra catalogs and images. KStars is also brilliant for tracking satellites, and it integrates a TLE (Two Line Elements) download and update tool within the Preferences, which is essential for getting and describing the latest, always changing orbital data for objects. It can also track supernovae and download a list of the latest occurrences, if any. Combine this with the classic planetarium interface and sky rendering, and we think KStars is definitely worth another look.

Despite calculating the positions of millions of stars, KStars is incredibly quick on modern hardware.

Project Website

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