A star map with d3.js
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Celestial map with D3.js

Interactive, adaptable celestial map done with the D3.js visualization library. So, GeoJSON for sky stuff. Which surprisingly nobody has done yet, it seems.

Features display of stars and deep sky objects (DSOs) with a selectable magnitude limit up to 6, or choose different GeoJSON data source for higher magnitudes. Also shows constellations with names, lines and/or boundaries, the Milky Way band and grid lines. Alternate coordinate spaces e.g. ecliptc, galactic or supergalactic are also possible. Full support for zoom and rotation with mouse or gestures.

Since it uses D3.js and HTML5 canvas, it needs a modern browser with canvas support, so any recent flavor of Chrome/Firefox/Safari/Opera or IE 9 and above should suffice. Check out the demo at armchairastronautics.blogspot.com or clone/download it for local usage, which works with Firefox; Chrome needs to be started with command line parameter --allow-file-access-from-files to load local json files. Or use a local web server environment, quite easy to do with node.js.

Simple map with editable configuration
Interactive form map viewer with all config options
Wall map for printing
Setting time/location and see the current sky
Animated planets moving about the ecliptic
Starry sky just the stars
Summer triangle adding data (Source files on github)

Some more examples:
Embedded interactive form
Spinning sky globe
The Milky Way halo, globular clusters & satellite galaxies
The Local Group of galaxies
Asterisms with locations & time selection
Asterisms with zoom & pan
Zoom & pan animations
A different kind of Messier marathon


Include the necessary scripts d3.min.js, d3.geo.projection.min.js and celestial.js from the lib subfolder or the first two alternatively from the official d3.js server http://d3js.org/, and then simply edit the default options and display the map with Celestial.display(config).

var config = { 
  width: 0,           // Default width, 0 = full parent element width; 
                      // height is determined by projection
  projection: "aitoff",    // Map projection used: see below
  transform: "equatorial", // Coordinate transformation: equatorial (default),
                           // ecliptic, galactic, supergalactic
  center: null,       // Initial center coordinates in set transform
                      // [longitude, latitude, orientation] all in degrees 
                      // null = default center [0,0,0]
  orientationfixed: true,  // Keep orientation angle the same as center[2]
  geopos: null,       // optional initial geographic position [lat,lon] in degrees, 
                      // overrides center
  follow: "zenith",   // on which coordinates to center the map, default: zenith, if location enabled, 
                      // otherwise center
  adaptable: true,    // Sizes are increased with higher zoom-levels
  interactive: true,  // Enable zooming and rotation with mousewheel and dragging
  form: true,         // Display form for interactive settings
  location: false,    // Display location settings (no center setting on form)
  daterange: [],      // Calender date range; null: displaydate-+10; [n<100]: displaydate-+n; [yr]: yr-+10; 
                      // [yr, n<100]: [yr-n, yr+n]; [yr0, yr1]  
  controls: true,     // Display zoom controls
  lang: "",           // Language for names, so far only for constellations: 
                      // de: german, es: spanish. Default:en or empty string for english
  container: "map",   // ID of parent element, e.g. div, null = html-body
  datapath: "data/",  // Path/URL to data files, empty = subfolder 'data'
  stars: {
    show: true,    // Show stars
    limit: 6,      // Show only stars brighter than limit magnitude
    colors: true,  // Show stars in spectral colors, if not use default color
    style: { fill: "#ffffff", opacity: 1 }, // Style for stars
    names: true,   // Show star designation (Bayer, Flamsteed, Variable star, Gliese, 
                    //  whichever applies first in that order)
    proper: false, // Show proper name (if one exists)
    desig: false,  // Show all designations, including Draper and Hipparcos
    namelimit: 2.5,  // Show only names/designations for stars brighter than namelimit
    namestyle: { fill: "#ddddbb", font: "11px Georgia, Times, 'Times Roman', serif", 
                 align: "left", baseline: "top" },  // Style for star designations
    propernamestyle: { fill: "#ddddbb", font: "11px Georgia, Times, 'Times Roman', serif", 
                       align: "right", baseline: "bottom" }, // Styles for star names
    propernamelimit: 1.5,  // Show proper names for stars brighter than propernamelimit
    size: 7,       // Maximum size (radius) of star circle in pixels
    exponent: -0.28, // Scale exponent for star size, larger = more linear
    data: 'stars.6.json' // Data source for stellar data, 
                         // number indicates limit magnitude
  dsos: {
    show: true,    // Show Deep Space Objects 
    limit: 6,      // Show only DSOs brighter than limit magnitude
    names: true,   // Show DSO names
    desig: true,   // Show short DSO names
    namestyle: { fill: "#cccccc", font: "11px Helvetica, Arial, serif", 
                 align: "left", baseline: "top" }, // Style for DSO names
    namelimit: 6,  // Show only names for DSOs brighter than namelimit
    size: null,    // Optional seperate scale size for DSOs, null = stars.size
    exponent: 1.4, // Scale exponent for DSO size, larger = more non-linear
    data: 'dsos.bright.json', // Data source for DSOs, 
                              // opt. number indicates limit magnitude
    symbols: {  //DSO symbol styles, 'stroke'-parameter present = outline
      gg: {shape: "circle", fill: "#ff0000"},          // Galaxy cluster
      g:  {shape: "ellipse", fill: "#ff0000"},         // Generic galaxy
      s:  {shape: "ellipse", fill: "#ff0000"},         // Spiral galaxy
      s0: {shape: "ellipse", fill: "#ff0000"},         // Lenticular galaxy
      sd: {shape: "ellipse", fill: "#ff0000"},         // Dwarf galaxy
      e:  {shape: "ellipse", fill: "#ff0000"},         // Elliptical galaxy
      i:  {shape: "ellipse", fill: "#ff0000"},         // Irregular galaxy
      oc: {shape: "circle", fill: "#ffcc00", 
           stroke: "#ffcc00", width: 1.5},             // Open cluster
      gc: {shape: "circle", fill: "#ff9900"},          // Globular cluster
      en: {shape: "square", fill: "#ff00cc"},          // Emission nebula
      bn: {shape: "square", fill: "#ff00cc", 
           stroke: "#ff00cc", width: 2},               // Generic bright nebula
      sfr:{shape: "square", fill: "#cc00ff", 
           stroke: "#cc00ff", width: 2},               // Star forming region
      rn: {shape: "square", fill: "#00ooff"},          // Reflection nebula
      pn: {shape: "diamond", fill: "#00cccc"},         // Planetary nebula 
      snr:{shape: "diamond", fill: "#ff00cc"},         // Supernova remnant
      dn: {shape: "square", fill: "#999999", 
           stroke: "#999999", width: 2},               // Dark nebula grey
      pos:{shape: "marker", fill: "#cccccc", 
           stroke: "#cccccc", width: 1.5}              // Generic marker
  planets: {  //Show planet locations, if date-time is set
    show: false,
    // List of all objects to show
    which: ["sol", "mer", "ven", "ter", "lun", "mar", "jup", "sat", "ura", "nep"],
    // Font styles for planetary symbols
    style: { fill: "#00ccff", font: "bold 17px 'Lucida Sans Unicode', Consolas, sans-serif", 
             align: "center", baseline: "middle" },
    symbols: {  // Character and color for each symbol in 'which', simple circle \u25cf
      "sol": {symbol: "\u2609", fill: "#ffff00"},
      "mer": {symbol: "\u263f", fill: "#cccccc"},
      "ven": {symbol: "\u2640", fill: "#eeeecc"},
      "ter": {symbol: "\u2295", fill: "#00ffff"},
      "lun": {symbol: "\u25cf", fill: "#ffffff"}, // overridden by generated cresent
      "mar": {symbol: "\u2642", fill: "#ff9999"},
      "cer": {symbol: "\u26b3", fill: "#cccccc"},
      "ves": {symbol: "\u26b6", fill: "#cccccc"},
      "jup": {symbol: "\u2643", fill: "#ff9966"},
      "sat": {symbol: "\u2644", fill: "#ffcc66"},
      "ura": {symbol: "\u2645", fill: "#66ccff"},
      "nep": {symbol: "\u2646", fill: "#6666ff"},
      "plu": {symbol: "\u2647", fill: "#aaaaaa"},
      "eri": {symbol: "\u25cf", fill: "#eeeeee"}
  constellations: {
    show: true,    // Show constellations 
    names: true,   // Show constellation names 
    desig: true,   // Show short constellation names (3 letter designations)
    namestyle: { fill:"#cccc99", align: "center", baseline: "middle", 
                 font: ["14px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif",  // Style for constellations
                        "12px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif",  // Different fonts for diff.
                        "11px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif"]},// ranked constellations
    lines: true,   // Show constellation lines, style below
    linestyle: { stroke: "#cccccc", width: 1, opacity: 0.6 }, 
    bounds: false, // Show constellation boundaries, style below
    boundstyle: { stroke: "#cccc00", width: 0.5, opacity: 0.8, dash: [2, 4] }
  mw: {
    show: true,     // Show Milky Way as filled multi-polygon outlines 
    style: { fill: "#ffffff", opacity: 0.15 }  // Style for MW layers
  lines: {  // Display & styles for graticule & some planes
    graticule: { show: true, stroke: "#cccccc", width: 0.6, opacity: 0.8,   
      // grid values: "outline", "center", or [lat,...] specific position
      lon: {pos: [""], fill: "#eee", font: "10px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif"}, 
      // grid values: "outline", "center", or [lon,...] specific position
      lat: {pos: [""], fill: "#eee", font: "10px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif"}},    
    equatorial: { show: true, stroke: "#aaaaaa", width: 1.3, opacity: 0.7 },  
    ecliptic: { show: true, stroke: "#66cc66", width: 1.3, opacity: 0.7 },     
    galactic: { show: false, stroke: "#cc6666", width: 1.3, opacity: 0.7 },    
    supergalactic: { show: false, stroke: "#cc66cc", width: 1.3, opacity: 0.7 }
  background: {        // Background style
    fill: "#000000",   // Area fill
    opacity: 1, 
    stroke: "#000000", // Outline
    width: 1.5
  horizon: {  //Show horizon marker, if location is set and map projection is all-sky
    show: false, 
    stroke: "#000099", // Line
    width: 1.0, 
    fill: "#000000",   // Area below horizon
    opacity: 0.5

// Display map with the configuration above or any subset therof

Supported projections: Airy, Aitoff, Armadillo, August, Azimuthal Equal Area, Azimuthal Equidistant, Baker, Berghaus, Boggs, Bonne, Bromley, Cassini, Collignon, Craig, Craster, Cylindrical Equal Area, Cylindrical Stereographic, Eckert 1, Eckert 2, Eckert 3, Eckert 4, Eckert 5, Eckert 6, Eisenlohr, Equirectangular, Fahey, Foucaut, Ginzburg 4, Ginzburg 5, Ginzburg 6, Ginzburg 8, Ginzburg 9, Hammer, Hatano, HEALPix, Hill, Homolosine, Kavrayskiy 7, Lagrange, l'Arrivee, Laskowski, Loximuthal, Mercator, Miller, Mollweide, Flat Polar Parabolic, Flat Polar Quartic, Flat Polar Sinusoidal, Natural Earth, Nell Hammer, Orthographic, Patterson, Polyconic, Rectangular Polyconic, Robinson, Sinusoidal, Stereographic, Times, 2 Point Equidistant, van der Grinten, van der Grinten 2, van der Grinten 3, van der Grinten 4, Wagner 4, Wagner 6, Wagner 7, Wiechel and Winkel Tripel. Most of these need the extension d3.geo.projections

Style settings
fill: fill color (css color value)
opacity: opacity (number 0..1)
Line styles
stroke: outline color (css color value)
width: line width in pixels (number 0..)
dash: line dash ([line length, gap length])
Text styles
font: well, the font (css font property)
align: horizontal align (left|center|right|start|end)
baseline: vertical align (alphabetic|top|hanging|middle|ideographic|bottom)
Symbol style
shape: symbol shape (circle|square|diamond|ellipse|marker or whatever else is defined in canvas.js)
symbol: unicode charcter to represent solar system object.

Adding Data

Exposed functions & objects

  • Celestial.add({file:string, type:json|raw, callback:function, redraw:function)
    Add data in json-format (json) or directly (raw) to the display
    The redraw function is added to the internal call stack of the main display routine
    file: complete url/path to json data file (type:json)
    type: type of data being added
    callback: callback function to call when json is loaded (json)
    or to directly add elements to the path (raw)
    redraw: for interactive display, callback when view changes (optional)

  • Celestial.clear()
    Deletes all previously added functions from the display call stack

  • Celestial.getData(geojson, transform)
    Function to convert geojson coordinates to transformation
    (equatorial, ecliptic, galactic, supergalactic)
    Returns geojson-object with transformed coordinates

  • Celestial.getPoint(coordinates, transform)
    Function to convert single coordinate to transformation
    (equatorial, ecliptic, galactic, supergalactic)
    Returns transformed coordinates

  • Celestial.container
    The object to add data to in the callback. See D3.js documentation

  • Celestial.context The HTML5-canvas context object to draw on in the callback. Also see D3.js documentation

  • Celestial.map
    The d3.geo.path object to apply projection to data. Also see D3.js documentation

  • Celestial.mapProjection
    The projection object for access to its properties and functions. Also D3.js documentation

  • Celestial.clip(coordinates)
    Function to check if the object is visible, and set its visiblility
    coordinates: object coordinates in radians, normally supplied by D3 as geometry.coordinates array

  • Celestial.setStyle(<style object>)

  • Celestial.setTextStyle(<style object>)
    Set the canvas styles as documented above under style settings. Seperate functions for graphic/text
    <style object>: object literal listing all styles to set

  • Celestial.Canvas.symbol()
    Draw symbol shapes directly on canvas context: circle, square, diamond, triangle, ellipse, marker,
    stroke-circle, cross-circle

Manipulating the Map

Exposed functions

  • Celestial.rotate({center:[long,lat,orient]}) Turn the map to the given center coordinates, without parameter returns the current center

  • Celestial.zoomBy(factor) Zoom the map by the given factor - < 1 zooms out, > 1 zooms in, without parameter returns the current zoom level

  • Celestial.apply(config) Apply configuration changes without reloading the complete map. Any parameter of the above config-object can be set except width, projection, transform, and *.data, which need a reload and interactive, form, controls, container, which control page structure & behaviour and shouls only be set on the initial load

  • Celestial.resize({width:px|0|null}) Change the overall size of the map, canvas object needs a complete reload Optional width: new size in pixels, null or 0 = full parent width

  • Celestial.redraw({transform:equatorial|ecliptic|galactic|supergalactic}) Load all the data and redraw the whole map. Optional transform: change the coordinate space transformation

  • Celestial.reproject({projection:<see above>}) Change the map projection. projection: new projection to set

  • Celestial.date(<date object>) (needs config.location = true) Change the set date, return date w/o parameter. date: javascript date-object


Exposed functions

  • Celestial.animate(anims, dorepeat)
    Set the anmation sequence and start it.
    anims: sequence data (see below)
    dorepeat: repeat sequence in endless loop

  • Celestial.stop(wipe)
    Stop the animation after the current step finishes.
    wipe: if true, delete the list of animation steps as well

  • Celestial.go(index)
    Continue the animation, if animation steps set.
    index: if given, continue at step #index in the anims arrray,
    if not, continue where the animation was stopped

Animation sequence format:
{param: Animated parameter projection|center|zoom
value: Adequate value for each parameter
duration: in milliseconds, 0 = exact length of transition
callback: optional callback function called at the end of the transition
}, ...]


Add your own data

First of all, whatever you add needs to be valid geoJSON. The various types of objects are described in the readme of the data folder. This can be a separate file or a JSON object filled at runtime or defined inline. Like so:

var jsonLine = {
  // this is an array, add as many objects as you want
     "properties": {
       // Name
       "n":"Summer Triangle",
       // Location of name text on the map
       "loc": [-67.5, 52]
     }, "geometry":{
       // the line object as an array of point coordinates, 
       // always as [ra -180..180 degrees, dec -90..90 degrees]
         [-80.7653, 38.7837],
         [-62.3042, 8.8683],
         [-49.642, 45.2803],
         [-80.7653, 38.7837]

As you can see, this defines the Summer Triangle asterism, consisting of the bright stars Vega (Alpha Lyr), Deneb (Alpha Cyg) and Altair (Alpha Aql).
Note: Since astronomical data is usually given in right ascension from 0 to 24 h and the geoJSON-format used in D3 expects positions in degrees from -180 to 180 deg, you may need this function to convert your data first:

function hour2degree(ra) { 
  return ra > 12 ? (ra - 24) * 15 : ra * 15;

You also need to define how the triangle is going to look like with some styles (see above):

var lineStyle = { 
      fill: "rgba(255, 204, 204, 0.4)",
var textStyle = { 
      font: "bold 15px Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif", 
      align: "center", 
      baseline: "bottom" 

Now we can get to work, with the function

Celestial.add({file:string, type:dso|line, callback:function, redraw:function)

The file argument is optional for providing an external geoJSON file, since we already defingd our data, we don't need it. Type is 'line', that leaves two function definiions, the first one gets called at loading, this is where we add our data to the d3-celestial data container, and redraw is called at every redraw event for the map. so here you need to define how to display the added object(s).

callback: function(error, json) {
  if (error) return console.warn(error);
  // Load the geoJSON file and transform to correct coordinate system, if necessary
  var asterism = Celestial.getData(jsonLine, config.transform);

  // Add to celestial objects container in d3
    .attr("class", "ast"); 
  // Trigger redraw to display changes

The callback funtion is pretty straight forward: Load the data with Celestial.getData, add to Celestial.container in te usual d3 manner, and redraw. It also provides a json parameter that contains the parsed JSON if a file property is given, but we already have defined jsonLine above, so we use that.

redraw: function() {   
  // Select the added objects by class name as given previously
  Celestial.container.selectAll(".ast").each(function(d) {
    // Set line styles 
    // Project objects on map
    // draw on canvas
    // If point is visible (this doesn't work automatically for points)
    if (Celestial.clip(d.properties.loc)) {
      // get point coordinates
      pt = Celestial.mapProjection(d.properties.loc);
      // Set text styles       
      // and draw text on canvas
      Celestial.context.fillText(d.properties.n, pt[0], pt[1]);

And the redraw function with the actual display of the elements, contained in a d3.selectAll call on the previously set class property of the added objects. Celestial.setStyle applies the predefined canvas styles, Celestial.map projects each line on the map. However, that doesn't work for points, so that is done manually with Celestial.clip (true if point is currently visible) and Celestial.mapProjection. and the rest are standard canvas fill and stroke operations. The beginPath and closePath commands are done automatically.


Finally, the whole map is displayed. The complete sample code is in the file triangle.html in the demo folder


GeoJSON data files
(See format specification in the readme for the data folder)

  • stars.6.json Stars down to 6th magnitude [1]
  • stars.8.json Stars down to 8.5th magnitude [1]
  • stars.14.json Stars down to 14th magnitude (large) [1]
  • dsos.6.json Deep space objects down to 6th magnitude [2]
  • dsos.14.json Deep space objects down to 14th magnitude [2]
  • dsos.20.json Deep space objects down to 20th magnitude [2]
  • dsos.bright.json Some of the brightest showpiece DSOs of my own choosing
  • messier.json Messier objects [8]
  • lg.json Local group and Milky Way halo galaxies/globiular clusters. My own compilation [6]
  • constellations.json Constellation data [3]
  • constellations.bounds.json Constellation boundaries [4]
  • constellations.lines.json Constellation lines [3]
  • asterisms.json Asterism data [7]
  • mw.json Milky Way outlines in 5 brightness steps [5]
  • planets.json Keplerian Elements for Approximate Positions of the Major Planets [9]


Other files

  • celestial.js main javascript object
  • celestial.min.js minified javascript
  • celestial.tar.gz data, minified script and viewer, all you need for local display
  • readme.md this file
  • celestial.css stylesheet
  • lib/d3.*.js necessary d3 libraries
  • src/*.js source code for all modules

Thanks to Mike Bostock and Jason Davies for D3.js and d3.geo.projections. And also thanks to Jason Davies for d3.geo.zoom, which saved me some major headaches in figuring out how to rotate/zoom the map.

Released under BSD License