KStars is a free educational platform that teaches astronomy. Users can see a simulation of the skies over the earth for any date and time.
The view includes 100 million stars, plus deep space images, asteroids, comets, planets, and even satellites. KStars runs on Microsoft Windows, macOS, and GNU/Linux, as well as a “lite” version on Android.
Note: You can download the KStars Linux versions here.
Who Uses KStars?
This software helps educators teach astronomy. It comes with a list of internet sources for more information and images, so it also works as a research tool. The makers suggest amateur astronomers should use the tool to plan their viewing, and tech-savvy children can use it to explore on their own.
Why Use KStars?
KStars is aimed at making learners more aware of the objects in the night sky, as well as their shifting locations. The detailed mapping shows how the objects interact and affect each other. The tool also allows the viewer to look at the night sky from different places on earth on the same date.
Users can attach trails to planets to see their trajectories, and they can set the date in the future to see what the night sky will look like.
A right-click on any object reveals information about that object, as well as additional resources and images.
Are Their Alternatives/Supplemental Tools to KStars?
Stellarium is another open source software for viewing the night sky. Its images are slightly clearer than KStars, and it has a bigger catalog of stars. It is geared toward projecting images for shows and lectures.
SkyChart has the biggest collection of stars and other objects in the night sky of any free software.
The Bottom Line
Of all the open-source astronomy software out there, KStars is the easiest to use. Plus, the on-screen information from the drop-down windows makes teaching about objects simple.