Nightshade® Astronomy Simulation Software
Nightshade is free, open source astronomy simulation and visualization software for teaching and exploring astronomy, Earth science, and related topics. It is the only open astronomy simulator designed specifically for the planetarium and educator community.
Digitalis leads the Nightshade project and does the vast majority of the development work. There are two flavors:
- Nightshade Legacy was originally a fork of the award-winning Stellarium software, but tailored for planetarium and educator use. (Digitalis was also part of the Stellarium development team.) Nightshade Legacy is the current stable version, but is not being developed further. It is licensed with a GNU GPLv3 license.
- Nightshade NG (Next Generation) is a complete rewrite from the ground up, and should be completed later this year. It throws out the crippling limitations inherited from Stellarium in favor of advanced features supported by cutting-edge simulation techniques. Nightshade NG will also be open source software, however Nightshade NG Professional (dome use) will be restricted to Digitarium brand planetarium systems.
Our emphasis is on usability, realism, feature stability, and performance. Nightshade is backward compatible with scripts for Stellarium 0.8.2 and earlier using the StratoScript™ language developed and maintained by Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc.
Nightshade is currently available for Linux, Windows, Mac OSX, and other platforms.
Read more about Nightshade or download it for free at http://www.NightshadeSoftware.org.
Digitalis developers are hard at work on Nightshade NG, which will be a major milestone for the project. Features will include:
- A terrain engine, for realistic and detailed terrain imagery and topographic data for select planets such as the Earth
- Fly through the solar system, to other stars, and even outside of the Milky Way galaxy
- Extensive 3d galaxy database
- Improved atmosphere rendering to encompass on and above Earth views
- The ability to view 3d models of irregular bodies such as asteroids or spacecraft, or even user loaded models such as chemical compounds
- Volumetric models of diffuse objects such as nebulae and galaxies.
With the addition of these features, Nightshade will come close to matching proprietary planetarium software which is either only bundled with proprietary hardware or costs literally tens of thousands of dollars up front for a license and many thousands of dollars a year for (limited!) support and upgrades.
All currently shipping Digitarium systems are ready for Nightshade NG Professional.
Watch a video snapshot of development progress.
Simulation Software Feature Comparison
The following is a comparison of the major differences between Nightshade running in our specialized environment on Digitarium systems, Nightshade alone, and Stellarium.
|Feature||Nightshade on Digitarium||Nightshade Alone||Stellarium|
|Numerous bug fixes and performance enhancements||x||x|
|Greater configurability and attention to planetarium specific features||x||x|
|Close integration with our uniquely intuitive remote control interface||x|
|Two-way integration with our uniquely powerful Universal Console iPad or desktop interface||x|
|Enhanced starfield realism/configurability||x||x|
|More solar system objects and higher resolution planet surfaces and nebula images||x|
|Nightly data updates for asteroids, comets, exoplanets, and artificial satellites.||x|
|Support for daylight savings and all world timezones||x||Linux only.|
|Show moon or other body orbit visualizations (3D depth buffered for realism)||x||x|
|Explore a planet from above||x||x|
|Load solar system objects (such as natural or artificial satellites, asteroids, comets, etc.) from a StratoScript||x||x|
|Play videos from a StratoScript||x||Not by default.|
|Play a StratoScript from a USB drive or the internal hard drive||x||Hard drive.|
|Lens distortion correction built in (Digitalis lenses)||x|
|Support for distortion correction when the projector must be placed off-center||x||Not video.|
|Integration with our media display/distortion correction software (perspective, off center, and lens distortion correction for video and images displayed anywhere on the dome)||x|
|Zoom to a location below the zenith for easier viewing in a dome||x||x|
|No hardware or driver compatibility issues to deal with||x|
|Automated software updates at your command||x|
|Free technical support for the life of your Digitarium system||x|
|Future software support||Nightshade NG Professional (exclusive)||Being discontinued.||No focus on planetarium usage.|
Nightshade is a registered trademark and StratoScript is a trademark of Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc.