I'm looking for a link to a table of visible stars that is open and available to everyone. It should have magnitude, RA, dec, and possibly some indication of color. This will be used to produce somewhat realistic night skies as a backdrop for showing the motion of the planets in the sky.

I'm not so interested in names, constellations, etc. These are of course useful to know and possibly to plot, but what I'm primarily after is the information necessary to illustrate star position, brightness, and some color information.

edit: to reiterate, "...table of visible stars that is open and available to eveyone." I'm assuming that in 2016 the visible stars are not behind a paywall, am I wrong? Approx RA, dec, mag - are these available for open access and usage?


1 Answer 1


The Hipparcos catalogue by van Leeuwen (2007) contains all the information you require, plus estimates of distance from parallax. It is open and free to use for scientific purposes.


The direct page that describes the catalogue contents and ftp site is http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/Cat?I/311

The tables themselves are at ftp://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/pub/cats/I/311

  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh This is an open source catalogue for scientific use. There is no paywall, and you didn't encounter one. If you intend some sort of commercial use you will have to make your own arrangements with ESA. Could you not find your way to where the entire catalogue can be downloaded? have added the link to the table descriptions page (which you'll need) that has links to ftp downloads of the entire catalogue. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Mar 12, 2016 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh ps The query page I sent you does allow you to download as much of the table as you like. The option is in the preferences box on the left hand side, in a drop-down box labelled "max". $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Mar 12, 2016 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I've added it. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Mar 12, 2016 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ OK this seems to work! I've clicked only the boxes I need, typed <6.5 for magnitude, and after some coaching from @RobJeffries I looked on the left where it says "preferences" and changed Max: to unlimited and the format to ASCII, and received 7,982 stars! I'll follow up with ESA, but I'm non-commercial, this is a personal "science project." Thanks!! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 12, 2016 at 1:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Good. The catalogue is completely free and open for scientific and non-commercial use. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Mar 12, 2016 at 8:25

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