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The Live Sky Chart

The Live Sky Chart is a new page on Heavens-Above which shows the currently visible satellites moving across the sky. It's the first step in a major overhaul of the Heavens-Above web site which will continue to progress over the coming months.

We would be the first to admit that the site looks quite dated - we've been online for over 20 years now in more or less the same format. Our aim is to make the site look better and be more usable on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones. We also want to offload most of the processing from the server to the client. The pages will become more dynamic, continuously updating their contents to correspond to the current time, rather than waiting for a page refresh.

The live sky chart has a new dark theme, which we hope will prevent you from being dazzled by a bright screen when observing the sky. Our hope is that you can take your smart device or laptop outside and enjoy the sky with the live sky chart as your guide.

The chart "look and feel" will become the new standard for Heavens-Above. The idea is that the navigation to other pages will always be available in the drop-down menus at the top of every page, and so avoiding the need to go back to the home page to reach the navigation menu.

New features which we plan to add in the near future include:

  • More information about the selected satellite, such as launch details, picture, category, orbit display.
  • Ability to zoom in on a portion of the chart.
  • Allow the user to rotate the chart to suit there viewing direction.
  • Popup information when the pointer is moved over other heavenly bodies, similar to the "interactive sky chart".
  • Automatic selection of the current highest or brightest satellite.

We've tested the chart on as many device as we can, and believe it's ready to go online. However, there are still some known problems which we are working to resolve, and these include;

  • The translation of all the text into the languages supported by Heavens-Above is not yet complete, and you will still see English text mixed in with your chosen language until this process is complete. We plan to get a special translation page on-line soon for our translation volunteers.
  • On very small screens, such as my iPhone SE, there is too much clutter in the chart. In the future, we aim to either reduce the size of the stars, or remove them completely and just show the asterisms.
  • The full screen option is not supported on all devices, especially on those running iOS.
  • The navigation menu from the chart page is not yet complete. If the page you want to load is not included, just return to the home page (click on the Heavens-Above logo) and navigate from there.

The page still contains advertising, which some people find annoying, but we rely mostly on advertising income to finance the site. At some point in the future, we may offer an alternative subscription service without advertising, in return for a modest annual fee.

Chris Peat,
Munich, May 28th, 2020