Earth simulation.

Nightshade is simulation and visualization software for teaching and exploring astronomy, Earth science, and related topics. Digitalis leads the Nightshade project and does the vast majority of the development work.

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 development is done under an open model where anyone can submit a bug report or feature request and otherwise get involved. Source code is openly available and our development roadmap is public.

There are two flavors:

Nightshade Legacy

  • This 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 under the free, open source GNU GPLv3 license.
  • Nightshade Legacy is currently available for Linux, Windows, Mac OSX, and other platforms.

Nightshade NG (Next Generation)

  • Nightshade NG is a complete rewrite from the ground up, with the first production release due out in mid 2015. It throws out the limitations inherited from earlier projects in favor of advanced features supported by cutting-edge simulation techniques.
  • Nightshade NG is licensed under the Nightshade Public License. There is no cost to download or use Nightshade NG, and source code is openly available to review, modify, and distribute. However, some special uses such as planetarium or simulator projection are restricted to commercially licensed versions.
  • Commercially licensed versions for dome use will be exclusive to Digitarium systems:
    • Nightshade NG Professional
    • Nightshade NG Basic (a lower cost version limited to travel within our solar system)
  • A desktop preview release of Nightshade NG is currently available for Windows and Linux.
  • Nightshade NG Professional Dome Preview is currently available to interested Digitarium users with OP5 or OP6 hardware.

Read more about Nightshade or download it for free at

Nightshade Legacy is currently the simulator used in our Digitarium digital planetarium systems. See below for a comparison with other open source planetarium simulators.

Nightshade NG Professional is a free upgrade for Digitarium users with at least Operating Platform 5 (OP5). The Digitarium Delta 3 instead includes a free upgrade to Nightshade NG Basic.

More About Nightshade NG

Test volumetric model.

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 incredibly expensive proprietary planetarium software.

All currently shipping Digitarium systems are ready for Nightshade NG.

Watch a video snapshot of development progress.

Nightshade NG preview releases are now available.

Test screenshot of Earth, Nightshade NG development. Test screenshot of Europa, Nightshade NG development.
Test screenshot of Earth atmosphere and terrain, Nightshade NG development. Test screenshot of Earth sunset, Nightshade NG development.

Planetarium Simulation Software Feature Comparison

The following is a comparison of the major differences between Nightshade Legacy running in our specialized environment on Digitarium systems, Nightshade Legacy alone, and Stellarium.

Feature Nightshade Legacy on Digitarium Nightshade Legacy Alone Stellarium
Numerous bug fixes and performance enhancements
Greater configurability and attention to planetarium specific features
Close integration with our uniquely intuitive remote control interface
Two-way integration with our uniquely powerful Universal Console iPad or desktop interface
Enhanced starfield realism/configurability
More solar system objects and higher resolution planet surfaces and nebula images
Nightly data updates for asteroids, comets, exoplanets, and artificial satellites.
Support for daylight savings and all world timezones Linux only.
Show moon or other body orbit visualizations (3D depth buffered for realism)
Explore a planet from above
Load solar system objects (such as natural or artificial satellites, asteroids, comets, etc.) from a StratoScript
Play videos from a StratoScript Not by default.
Play videos from a StratoScript corrected for dome distortion
Play a StratoScript from a USB drive or the internal hard drive Hard drive.
Lens distortion correction built in (Digitalis lenses)
Support for distortion correction when the projector must be placed off-center 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)
Zoom to a location below the zenith for easier viewing in a dome
No hardware or driver compatibility issues to deal with
Automated software updates at your command
Free technical support for the life of your Digitarium system
Future software support Nightshade NG Basic or Professional (exclusive) End of life. No focus on planetarium usage.

Nightshade is a registered trademark and StratoScript is a trademark of Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc.