Celestia 3D Space Simulation Software For Linux / Windows / OS X

last updated in Categories Debian Linux, Howto, Linux, Linux desktop, Ubuntu Linux

Celestia is a real-time visual space simulation astronomy program. It is a cross platform, open source software and released under the GNU General Public License. NASA and ESA have used Celestia in their educational and for interfacing to trajectory analysis software. It allows users to travel through an extensive universe, modeled after reality, at any speed, in any direction and at any time in history. Celestia displays and interacts with objects ranging in scale from artificial satellites to entire galaxies in three dimensions using OpenGL. It is a perfect software for astronomer, educator, student, and teacher for astronomy purpose.


  1. Celestia displays the Hipparcos Catalogue (HIP) of almost 120,000 stars.
  2. Solar and lunar eclipse finder.
  3. Display the orbital paths of planets (including extrasolar planets), dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, comets, artificial satellites, and spacecraft.
  4. Celestia users can travel/fly through the Celestia universe using simple keyboard controls, at any speed from 0.001m/s to millions of light years/s
    Controls allow users to orbit stars, planets, moons and other space objects, track space objects such as spacecraft, asteroids and comets as they fly by, or travel to and/or fly through nebula and irregular, elliptical and spiral galaxies (over 10,000 galaxies included).
  5. Celestia displays such features as detailed atmospheres on planets and moons, planet shine on orbiting satellites, sunsets and sunrises, moving clouds, planetary rings, eclipse and ring shadows etc.
  6. Graphic screen-shots and movies can be captured in classic or HD resolutions (up to 1920×1080) on Windows and Linux platforms.


You need to install the following packages:

  1. celestia – A real-time visual space simulation
  2. celestia-common – Datafiles for Celestia, a real-time visual space simulation
  3. celestia-glut – A real-time visual space simulation (GLUT frontend)
  4. celestia-gnome – A real-time visual space simulation (GNOME frontend)
  5. celestia-kde – A real-time visual space simulation (KDE frontend)

Install Celestia Under Debian / Ubuntu Linux

Type the following commands:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install celestia-gnome celestia

How do I start Celestia?

Type the following command at a console (terminal):
$ celestia-gnome &
Alternatively, you can start Celestia in the following ways:

  • Applications menu
  • Choose Education > Celestia
Fig.01: Celestia displaying earth
Fig.01: Celestia displaying earth

Celestia Mouse, Keyboard and Joystick Controls

Celestia allows you to zoom in / out and rotate various objects from star to spacecraft using a mouse. It has “point and goto” interface which allows you to navigate through our universe.

Left Drag Camera orientation–Up/Down/Left/Right (also Up & Down arrow key)
Shift+Left Dbl Click on an object Deselect and Center selected object
Left Click on no object Deselect currently selected object
Right Click on an object Display object context menu if it has one
Scroll Wheel or Ctrl+Left Drag or Ctrl+Left Drag Left+Right Drag up/down Distance to selection adjust. (Home/End)

To see complet list press CTRL+H.

How do I view demo?

To view the demo click on Help menu > Demo.

Further readings:

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

11 comment

  1. Nice simulation package. I have to keep shifting OS in my notebook for different projects as a developer. It works in Linux/Windows and OS X then it is very useful to me. Thanx for the information. Provide download link if possible.

  2. @Solaris, stellarium is real-time photo-realistic sky generator. It may come handy for some projects.

  3. Thank you for the post! I was not even aware that Celestia even existed. I have spent quite a bit of time using it and it’s very cool. Just another example of the power of open source software.

  4. I found stellarium about 2 months ago. It is amazing. It helped me determine when I could take a photo of Jupiter. I was easily able to identify it in the sky and take a picture. In my photo (with 450mm lens) I could see Jupiter’s 4 moons — awesome. I can’t wait to try Celestia, and also show it to my daughters, with whom I’m trying to generate space interest. Thanks for the article.

  5. Great program, I was going thru the galaxy last week when would you know it, the hyperspacial navigation system packed in. Bummer.
    With the crew in DeepSleep(rtm) and only a Readers Digest Atlas (Tourist Edition) to hand I was totally lost. Downloading this enabled me to find my way back to the HomeWorld with no problem. In fact we are so impressed with the quality of this program that we are going to invade and conquer your planet next week.., on Wednesday, at around 16:00 hrs gmt…, give or take…, you know what traffic is like at that time.
    If it gets too late we’ll arrive early on Thursday.
    Emperor Zhork IV

  6. Its good program to learn about universe and earth.. all simulation are very nice. i really love this Celestia Universe Space Programs. Thanks.

  7. Is this for real? Does it really track ACTUAL small and large bodies in space (meteorites, comets, fractions of meteorites, debris, etc.) as they move throughout space in order to follow their trajectory(ies)? OK, here is/are THE important question(S): What do you think? Do we have other, actual, NASA technology to follow these bodies so that we can maybe shoot a big enough missile in order to divert its trajectory and avoid a body hitting the earth? Or are we doing it already?
    and let me take this opportunity to with you all, your families, friends and loved ones a Happy New Year!

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