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Download usage examples

Usage examples aim at familiarizing the user with Aladin and Stellarium and at stimulating further interest and activities in astronomy. Usage examples are in the form of pedagogic modules consisting of two main parts. The first part presents a typical astronomical problem with a short introduction and a description of the solution found by astronomers, or, in some cases, an expanded treatment of the problem. The second part is a step-by-step guide to the commands needed to reach the solution of the problem with Aladin or Stellarium. Some of our usage examples include exercises that are proposed for teachers' activities in the classroom. Solutions are provided separately.

Astronomical Infrastructure for Data Access

1. The sky - basic                       
Within this use case you discover the celestial coordinates allowing you to point and/or find a given star in the sky. You also learn how to use coordinate systems in order to learn the effects of Earth's rotation and revolution on the celestial sphere. Special topics are constellations and light pollution, both important for a basic appreciation of the night sky.
2. The stars - intermediate                    
Within this use case you discover the basic observational parameters of stars, color and magnitude. These observational parameters are counterparts of the main physical parameters temperature and luminosity. By selecting stars on the sky you build the Herzsprung-Russell diagram that shows the relation between color and magnitude, a milestone in the history of our understanding of how stars work and evolve.
3. The shape of galaxies - basic                    
Within this use case you discover the shapes of galaxies and their classification according to the Hubble diagram. You are offered sequences of galaxies with different morphologies and are asked to order them. The morphological classification of galaxies is still in use even if we have discovered that the Hubble diagram "per se" has no direct physical or evolutionary meaning. Besides introducing the main shapes of galaxies, the use case offer a demonstration of the classification process, a fundamental tool of astronomers.
* download a galaxy set: hubble_1.zip, hubble_2.zip, hubble_3.zip, hubble_4.zip
4. The Pleiades open cluster - advanced                           
Within this use case you recognize a physical association of stars close in space as opposed to a superpositon created by projection effects of stars very far one from the others. The key measure is distance derived from parallax. With the true members of the association (open cluster) you create a Herzsprung-Russell diagram as in use case 2. The Herzsprung-Russell diagram of stellar clusters is very important because of the low noise of few unrelated stars.
5. Proper motion of the Barnard's star - intermediate            
Within this case you learn that stars that seem "fixed" on the sky may actually move, even if their motion is so slow for the naked eye to be undetectable. You compare two photographs of the Barnard's Star taken several years apart and will be able to estimate its displacement on the sky. Your estimate will be very close to actual measurements.
6. Confirmation of an apparent supernova - intermediate                   
Within this intermediate use case you learn about supernovae (see also use case 8.)and determine the celestial coordinates of a just discovered candidate supernova (see also use case 1.) on an image (provided) that has no coordinate systems. This use case provides a glimpse of an activity that is representative of the practical tasks that astronomers have to perform when they analyze data.
* download the image ngc6946.fits
7. Distance of the Andromeda galaxy - advanced                      
Within this advanced use case you measure the linear distance of the Andromeda Galaxy following the steps of the astronomers who first measured it, climbing an important step of the so-called cosmic distance ladder. The use case requires the identification of variable stars of the Cepheid class and the determination of the relation between their period and their intrinsic luminosity.
8. Distance of the Crab Nebula - intermediate                   
Within this use case you learn about supernovae, exploding or exploded stars. In particular you will use information on the Crab Nebula (the 1054 aD supernova registered by Chinese astronomers) to derive its distance: an example of how some very important information may be gained from very simple arguments and geometry.
9. Asteroids in the Solar System - intermediate           
Within this use case you learn about asteroids, a very interesting and actual topic in view of the exploration of the solar system and of the study of planet formation. You find the main characteristics of their orbits by querying asteroid databases and determine their distribution within the solar system.
10. Planetary conjunctions - basic            
Within this use case you will learn about an event that has been recorded by astronomers for thousands of years. Planetary conjunctions are events that are easy to find mentioned even outside scientific literature. You explore the motion of planets both around the Sun and in the sky, learn about planetary conjunctions and try a guess at what really might have been the Star of Bethlehem.
11. Introduction to Stellarium for preschooler - basic                
Within this use case you will be shown the easiest and most appealing functions of the software Stellarium for a presentation to preschoolers. Main topics are constellations and their variation between different cultures. Light pollution is mentioned too.

International Cooperation Empowerment

12. Planetary motion - advanced        
Within this use case you learn about Kepler's laws, a cornerstone of astronomy and a fundamental brick of both Newton's and Einstein's theories of gravitation. This use case is complemented by use cases 10 and 16 (at different levels of difficulty).
13. The Moon - intermediate        
Within this case you discover the geometry of the orbit of the Moon and the nature of its phases. As special case of the circumstances of Moon's orbit, the use case introduces the eclipses, both of Moon and Sun.

Collaborative and Sustainable Astronomical Data Infrastructure for Europe

14. The constellations of the Zodiac - basic        
Within this use case you learn about the constellations of the Zodiac, i.e. those crossed by the apparent path of the Sun during the year. Together with some characteristics the orbital motion of the Earth, in this use case you also find a short excursion into history of astronomy. The use case also introduces the precession of the equinoxes.
15. The Messier catalog - basic        
Within this use case you meet representatives of the most interesting categories of celestial objects. From stellar clusters to galaxies. All objects are from the Messier catalog that includes some of the most viewed objects of the deep sky.
16. The mass of Jupiter - intermediate       
Within this use case you determine the mass of Jupiter by observing the orbits of the Galileian moons and by inserting these data into Kepler's laws (use case 12).
17. Star clusters - intermediate        
Within this use case you learn about the difference between intrinsic linear size and apparent angular size, a difference that is frequently at the center of astronomical problems. Star clusters are the objects used to illustrate this difference. You also learn some basic facts about star clusters, whose distribution in space has helped us to understand the structure of our Milky Way. Thanks to Aladin, you will be able to explore their distribution on the sky on your own.
18. Introduction to Aladin - basic        
Within this use case you learn about Aladin's main features, each presented with examples taken from its most common use.
19. Stellarium for beginners - basic        
Within this use case you learn about Stellarium's main features, each presented with examples taken from its most common use.
20. The disc of the Milky Way - intermediate    
Within this use case you discover the shape and thickness of the disc of our own Galaxy by counting stars within and around the Milky Way. With the use of both Aladin and Stellarium you draw the line corresponding to the disc of the Milky Way in a coordinate diagram.

  • basic: requires no astronomical knowledge or ability to solve math computations. Age group 12-15.
  • intermediate: requires basic astronomy and math knowledge and the capability to understand a plot. Age group 15-18.
  • advanced: requires good astronomy and math knowledge and the capability to build and understand a plot. Age group 18+.

Software Stellarium

Stellarium simulates a realistic sky on the screen of the PC, like it could be seen by naked eye or with a telescope from anywhere on the earth and at any time. Stellarium may be used by anybody, but in particular it may be useful to teachers for exploring the night sky and the basics of the celestial sphere. It is also a useful tool for amateur astronomers who wish to plan an observing session.

> Download Stellarium
> Download Stellarium User Guide [.pdf]

Software Aladin

Aladin is an interactive celestial ATLAS for the visualization of digital images available in VO format, together with a selection of large area sky surveys. It also displays the nicest images taken with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. Aladin allows to mark on images the positions of the celestial objects contained in the astronomical catalogs available in international archives like Simbad and VizieR at the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS). Aladin has several built-in functions that allow image handling and a quick analysis. All professional applications developed for VO are available to Aladin.

> Download Aladin
> Download Aladin User Guide [.pdf]

Note: In order to use the simplified version of Aladin open the menu EDIT > USER PREFERENCES > PROFILE, select “undergraduate” and restart Aladin.

Software SimPlay

SimPlay is a fast viewer of astronomical images available online. SimPlay accesses Simbad catalogs and allows the user to mark on the images the position of astronomical objects selected by category (e.g. stars,galaxies,x-ray sources, etc.).

> Start SimPlay


stellarium screenshot 1 stellarium screenshot 2
aladin screenshot 1 aladin screenshot 2

latest use cases and software
New Stellarium 0.20.4.
/ February 15, 2021 /
New release of Stellarium Software/... /
New usecase:
The disk of the Milky Way.
/ April 2, 2018 /
New usecase on shape and properties of the Milky Way./... /
New usecase:
Stellarium for beginners.
/ March 10, 2017 /
New usecase on basic features of Stellarium and simple examples on how to use it./... /
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EuroVO for education has been developed with the support of the 7th European Framework
Programme through the following projects: EuroVO AIDA (212104), EuroVO ICE (261541) and
EuroVO CoSADIE (312559). Maintenance is supported by INAF, through the Astronomical
Observatory of Trieste, the ICT Office and the VObs.it initiative.
EuroVO for education is a STELLA project.
designed and maintained by Giulia Iafrate - INAF-OATs