Where can I find the positions of the planets, stars, moons, artificial satellites, etc. and visualize them? is an amazing resource and @user21 has set it up with a community wiki answer for all of us to add to. It has been linked to 58 other posts and counting. While this question may not be quite as productive, I think it can benefit from that model so I'm going to suggest that the first user to post an answer consider setting it up as a community wiki which I can accept and then we can all add to, but individual answers could also be the way to go, though then I can't accept any one answer.

Question: What are the ways we can quickly generate custom star charts to find moving asteroids or comets in binoculars and telescopes?

Ideally they will have options for different fields of view, limiting magnitudes of stars plotted, and positions of planets built in, but I am also very interested in the ability to take orbital parameters from the minor body data center so that the movement of asteroids or comets will be included in the chart.

These can include downloadable programs or apps to run locally on phones or websites that make suitable plots, or packages that allow us to script the generation of such plots.


1 Answer 1


Cartes du Ciel

Let's say that you want to plot the positions of the comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard).

(First, make sure the program knows of its existence: Click the "Update" menu and then click "Comet elements")

Click the "View" menu and then click the "Trajectories simulation" item.

A new window will open.

  • Click the "None" button to deselect all the types of objects, and then click the checkbox next to "Comet".
  • Then, enter the text "C/2021" in the text box immediately to the right of the "Comet" item, and click the "Filter ->" button, then select the comet "C/2021 A1 (Leonard)" from the dropdown.
  • Increase the value in "Number of steps".

The window should now look like this:

Trajectories simulation window

Then click "OK" (or "Apply" if you want to continue adjusting these settings) and see how it appears on the sky chart:

Sky chart

Note here how I have selected the option to display 20 days' of positions, but there are only seven shown. This is because from the eighth day the object will be below the horizon at the time I selected. I would need to advance the time (using the toolbar button labeled with ">·") to see more positions.


Again, using comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) as an example.

Firstly, add the object to the program's internal database:

Open the configuration window, go to the "Plug-ins" tab, select the "Solar System Editor" plugin, ensure "Load at startup" is checked, and click the configure button:
Configuration window

Click the "Solar System" tab and then click the "Import orbital elements in MPC format..." button:
Solar system editor settings window

In the next window, select the "Comets" radio button, choose a source from the dropdown list, and click the "Get orbital elements" button:
Import data window

Then, select the object of interest and click the "Add objects" button:
Import data window

Now, open the "Astronomical calculations" window, go to the "Ephemeris" tab, select the object from the "Celestial body" dropdown, and click the "Calculate ephemeris" button:
Astronomical calculations window

Finally, you'll see the positions marked in the main display:
enter image description here

Note that here I calculated the positions at the current time (late afternoon), then advanced the time several hours so it would look similar to the screenshot from the Cartes du Ciel example.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Excellent, thank you for getting this going! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 4, 2021 at 23:40

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