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Creating a custom landscape for Stellarium

Derbyshire Dave

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Derbyshire Dave

I’ve recently created a custom landscape and it’s been really helpful, allowing me to see the stars and planets like they would from my observatory (i.e. the garden!).

It’s fairly straightforward, so I’d like to share the process. There are several stages.




This is personal choice, but I find that the most useful view of Stellarium is when the daylight visualisation is off (i.e. you can see the stars during daylight hours), and the background is always visible (i.e. doesn’t go dark when time gets to night time).


Press F4 on the keyboard. The View Menu comes up.


“Atmospheric Visualisation” is normally ticked, note the sky normally shows daylight.





 I like to untick this showing the sky as dark during the day..





The other setting I like to change is on the View Menu, landscape tab. It’s the Minimal Brightness check box, which I like to have ticked. If this is left unticked, when the sky goes dark, so does the background, and you can’t orientate yourself.


When it is ticked you see a light rendition of your background, so you can see what you see things relative to the background. Look carefully below, you can just see my background, it would otherwise be totally black in this night view.





Having changed those two settings, make sure they are saved. Press F2 to get to the configuration menu, then on the “Main” tab, press “Save Settings”.

These two steps will make getting your landscape working much easier.




You need to capture a 360 degree landscape, taken from your observing site. This can be done as a series of shots with an SLR, but I found that the easiest method was to use a mobile phone set to panorama mode.


I took two panoramas, each of slightly greater than 180 degrees. However many photographs you need for the 360, stitch your photos together, I used Photoshop, but you could use Microsoft ICE, or whichever software you are familiar with.


After stitching you should carefully crop the photo at the edges so that you have exactly a 360 degree view. I found it useful to look for the same object at each side to help with the crop. 




The first thing to be aware of is that the file needs to be capable of having a transparent background. You can’t do this with a .JPG file. So use your imaging software to save as a .PNG file, with a transparent background.


The resolution of modern cameras means that at this stage the file will be quite large, much larger than when it will be used later, in Stellarium.


This is good though, because the extra resolution makes it easier to carefully remove the sky. Use your software and an eraser tool, or a brush tool, and eat away the sky carefully, leaving a clean as possible break between the sky and the background.


Here’s my landscape, with the transparent background shown as a checkerboard pattern.







STAGE 4 GET THE IMAGE THE RIGHT SIZE. 1640 wide x 1024 deep


Having used the extra resolution to get a nice clean ‘cut out’, use your editing software to make get the image the correct size. Keep a copy at the original size just in case!

Reducing to the correct size can take a bit of doing. You don’t want your software to distort the image during the reduction.


I reduced to the correct width, and then played around adding and subtracting to the height to get the exact size. The area above the sky can be added as transparent area, the area below I have filled with green, so can be extended or cut as necessary.


Most of the hard work is now done!




I create a folder on my desktop, this time called “RonsHouse”, but whatever you like. In there put your PNG file, named as landscape.png

Also in that folder, with a text editor, create the file “landscape.ini” and paste the following (blue here) lines into it..



name = Ron, Lynn and Daisy's House in Newark

description = Shedatory + Man Shed

type = spherical

maptex = landscape.png



latitude = +53d03'00"

longitude = -0d48'00"

altitude = 20

angle_rotatez = 180


a)Change the name to the name of your site


b)Change the description to describe your observatory


c)Change the latitude and longitude to describe your position. The convention on longitude is that minus is West.

The latitude and longitude of Ron’s house is approximately 53 deg 3 mins North, 0 deg 48 mins West


Save the file.





The folder on your desktop needs copying to your Stellarium/landscapes folder. This will normally be C:\Program Files\Stellarium\landscapes. It doesn’t matter what you call your folder, the name showing in Stellarium will come from your .INI file


Keep the copy of the folder on your desktop. If anything is not correct it’s better to edit there and drag the whole folder again, keeping yourself a backup.

You may have to give permission to create or overwrite the folder.




Go into Stellarium, Press F4 for the View Menu, and go to the landscapes tab.


You should now see the option as described in the “name” tab in the INI file.. with it’s details.





Once you are happy with it, you can tick “Use this landscape as default”, then save settings.


Hopefully things look OK, but maybe at the wrong angle. You need to play with "angle_rotatez", the angle of rotation of the landscape.


Play with the “angle_rotatez” in landscape.ini file IN THE DESKTOP FOLDER, then copy the whole folder again. This can be a bit fiddly, persevere, it’s worth getting it right.


Don’t try and edit in the C:\Program Files\Stellarium\landscapes folder, it won’t let you save it.








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Derbyshire Dave

If it's any help, and you want to try using my transparant background, it can be downloaded from Flickr. Take this link..




Choose the download button, and choose "Original Size". Rename it as "landscape.png"


Hope this is helpful, and not me just over complicating things!

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Derbyshire Dave
1 hour ago, RonC said:

Well after taking an hour to sort out my photo, I still can't get it to show in Stellarium!

Finger's ache now so taking Daisy for a walk!!




OK Ron,

 1)Have you got the ini file and the png file?

 2)Are they in a new folder (doesn't need to be named anything specific, but it does need to be in a folder)..

 e.g. C:\Program Files\Stellarium\landscapes\Rons Folder..


PM me if you like, I'll give you my e-mail address, and have a look at your two files for you.

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Derbyshire Dave
17 minutes ago, RonC said:

OK I'll check them, busy on Flight Sin ATM !!



Fligh SIN! Sounds a bit naughty!😅

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Derbyshire Dave

I use "stereographic" on the Sky Men Ron. The image file you sent me had not been reduced to 1640x1024, I have done that for you and e-mailed back.


I made a mistake in the INI file. SORRY. The angle_rotatex line should be immediately below the maptex line. Copy this into your ini file instead, and you should be able to rotate at will.



name = Ron, Lynn and Daisy's House in Newark

description = Shedatory + Man Shed

type = spherical

maptex = landscape.png
angle_rotatez = 180



latitude = +53d03'50"

longitude = -0d49'06"

altitude = 5


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Derbyshire Dave
11 hours ago, RonC said:

Looking a lot better now Dave, many thanks 👍

Great stuff Ron! It's pleasing isn't it, helps with the night's planning.


If anyone else fancies a go, I'll try and help in the same manner, i.e looking at the files if you are having problems.

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Yes, even got the orientation spot on! But I'll have to take another image after that big conifer is removed next week!! I'll take less sky and more lower down than before!!


Cheers and thanks


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