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As a data visualization task, I'd like to plot some celestial bodies in 3D coordinate space. I assumed there would be a lot of databases where celestial bodies are recorded along with an XYZ coordinate relative to our sun. As I ponder more on it I begin to realize other features, for example how is the axis of alignment achieved and agreed upon?

Given the below data set, is it clear what system is in use and how I may interpret it in a way that gives me an XYZ I can begin plotting?

https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?docid=1TZ3eoWstpR8d0O2-eqoz3VFDsLwSSzNA5wX4LxE

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    $\begingroup$ The data you link doesn't seem to have a distance, only RA & Dec (which are angular co-ordinates in our sky, from our position.) So you can't build a 3-D representation from this alone. You probably need to find star or galaxy surveys with distance or parallax estimates. Maybe the Hipparcos data set? (Stars only.) $\endgroup$ – Andy Dec 22 '15 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ usno.navy.mil/USNO/astrometry/optical-IR-prod/nomad is the most extensive such catalog (nearly 1 billion objects), but may be excessive for your needs. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Celestial_Reference_Frame is a good choice for reference frame. $\endgroup$ – user21 Dec 23 '15 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy I will learn more about these types of coordinates - thank you. What do the RA & Dec coordinates reveal from my perspective? I should be able to plot them in a flat 2D sky model? $\endgroup$ – ThisClark Dec 24 '15 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ That's right, RA and Dec are the angular co-ordinates on the inside of an imaginary "celestial sphere". So they give the position seen from Earth and if you can work out the maths for some sort of projection, can be used to draw star charts. $\endgroup$ – Andy Dec 24 '15 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, I did this with wires and foam balls from Michaels. I find it much easier to use Galactic Coordinates. Also, check out this website kisd.de/~krystian/starmap. $\endgroup$ – Jack R. Woods Mar 25 '16 at 2:16
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Here you can choose your target body and center of observation. If you want cartesian coordiantes use "Vector Table".

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I think the answer to your question is the game Universe Sandbox 2. With such a software I think it would be pretty easy to obtain what you want.

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  • $\begingroup$ It looks interesting, and I thank you for sharing. What I'm really looking for is an appropriate data set and exercise for teaching students about astronomy and a programming language at the same time. $\endgroup$ – ThisClark Dec 28 '15 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ Universe Sandbox is commercial, you can also use the free Celestia and Stellarium $\endgroup$ – censored user Feb 20 '16 at 19:37

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