Software:Gaia Sky

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Gaia Sky
Saturn dramatic background.jpg
Saturn with its moons in Gaia Sky
Original author(s)Toni Sagristà Sellés
Developer(s)Toni Sagristà Sellés
Initial release2014; 9 years ago (2014)
Stable release
3.4.2 (15 March 2023; 7 months ago (2023-03-15)).[1]
Written inJava, GLSL
Operating systemLinux, macOS and Microsoft Windows
SizeLinux: 51 MB
macOS: 105 MB
Windows: 96 MB
tar.gz package: 48 MB
Source code: 27.1 MB
TypeEducational software Space simulator
LicenseMozilla Public License

Gaia Sky is an open-source astronomy visualisation desktop and VR program with versions for Windows, Linux and macOS. It is created and developed by Toni Sagristà Sellés in the framework of ESA's Gaia mission to create a billion-star multi-dimensional map of our Milky Way Galaxy, in the Gaia group of the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut (ZAH, Universität Heidelberg). Gaia Sky is a product of the outreach working group of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium. The software is released under the Mozilla Public License.

The Gaia satellite in Gaia Sky
The Gaia satellite in Gaia Sky

The inner workings of Gaia Sky are described in detail in the paper Gaia Sky: Navigating the Gaia Catalog.[2]

Gaia Sky offers many advanced features like the stereoscopic (3D), planetarium and panorama renderers. It also works with virtual reality headsets through SteamVR,[3] is fully scriptable with Python[4] and features game controller support that makes it possible to operate it even with a racing wheel.[5]

Gaia Sky is used by ESA to aid in the video production of Gaia Data Releases.[6][7][8] A video made with Gaia Sky was also featured in the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.[9]


The Milky Way from afar
The Milky Way from afar

The installer packages of Gaia Sky contain the program but no data at all. In order to use Gaia Sky, at least a download of the base data package, containing the Solar System with low-resolution textures, is necessary. Gaia Sky offers a built-in download manager which connects to the servers at the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut in Heidelberg to fetch the desired datasets. The downloading and deploying processes are seamless to the user.

Several datasets are available, offering higher resolution textures, different cuts of the Gaia eDR3 catalog (up to 1.46 billion stars), other star catalogs such as the Hipparcos catalog, different galaxy maps (dust, HII regions, etc.), nebulae or extragalactic catalogs such as NBG[10] or Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

All datasets are specified in JSON files following a comprehensible and well documented format.[11]


  1. "Gaia Sky Downloads". Zentrum für Astronomie Heidelberg. Retrieved 25 December 2021. 
  2. Sagristà, Antoni; Jordan, Stefan; Müller, Thomas; Sadlo, Filip (Jan 2019). "Gaia Sky: Navigating the Gaia Catalog". IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 25 (1): 1070–1079. doi:10.1109/TVCG.2018.2864508. PMID 30130201. 
  3. "Explore the Milky Way in VR with Gaia Sky". IT. Retrieved 29 March 2021. 
  4. "Navigate the galaxy with Gaia Sky". Download CREW. Retrieved 29 March 2021. 
  5. "Using an iRacing setup for Gaia Sky". Google. Retrieved 29 March 2021. 
  6. "Visualising the Gaia data with Gaia Sky". ESA. Retrieved 29 March 2021. 
  7. "Bridge of stars". ESA. Retrieved 29 March 2021. 
  8. "The acceleration of the Solar System with respect to the distant Universe". ESA. Retrieved 29 March 2021. 
  9. "Here comes the Sun". ASD at NASA. Retrieved 9 December 2019. 
  10. "Nearby Galaxies Catalog". Retrieved 9 October 2019. 
  11. "Gaia Sky data formats". Zentrum für Astronomie Heidelberg. Retrieved 9 October 2019. 

External links