Settings and configuration

Gaia Sky can be configured using the provided GUI (Graphical User Interface). However, some functions are not represented in the GUI, so you may need to dive deep into the properties file.


As of version 1.0.5 the old swing-based preferences dialog has been deprecated in favour of an OpenGL-based one, so it does not pop up at startup anymore.

Graphics settings

Please refer to the Graphics settings chapter.

User interface

The User Interface section allows the user to set the language and the theme of the user interface.

One can select between a choice of languages using the language drop-down. There are currently three visual themes available:

  • dark-green, black and green theme.

  • dark-green-x2, scaled version of dark-green (for HiDPI screens).

  • dark-blue, black and blue theme.

  • dark-blue-x2, scaled version of dark-blue (for HiDPI screens).

  • dark-orange, orange and blue theme.

  • dark-orange-x2, scaled version of dark-orange (for HiDPI screens).

  • bright-green, a bright theme with greenish tones.

  • bright-green-x2, scaled version of birght-green (for HiDPI screens).


In the Performance tab you can enable and disable multithreading. In our tests, multithreading provides a significant boost when more than 4 threads are available in the CPU. Otherwise its overhead makes it slower than the single-threaded version, so use it at your own risk. This allows the program to use more than one CPUs for the processing. More detailed info can be found in the performance section.

Draw distance

Certain big datasets use levels of detail to prevent data clutter. Refer to the Draw distance (levels of detail) section for more info.


You can see the key associations in the Controls tab. Controls are not editable. Check out the Controls documentation to know more.

Screenshot configuration

You can take screenshots anytime when the application is running by pressing F5. There are two screenshot modes available: * Simple, the classic screenshot of what is currently on screen, with the same resolution. * Advanced, where you can define the resolution of the screenshots. Additionally, the output format (either JPG or PNG) and the quality (in case of JPG format) can also be set in the configuration file, usually located in $HOME/.gaiasky/ The keys to modify are:

  • screenshot.format

  • screenshot.quality

Frame output

There is a feature in Gaia Sky that enables the output of every frame as a JPG or PNG image. This is useful to produce videos. In order to configure the frame output system, use the Frame output tab. There you can select the output folder, the image prefix name, the output image resolution (in case of Advanced mode) and the target frame rate. Additionally, the output format (either JPG or PNG) and the quality (in case of JPG format) can also be set in the configuration file, usually located in $HOME/.gaiasky/ The keys to modify are:

  • graphics.render.format

  • graphics.render.quality


Use F6 to activate the frame output mode and start saving each frame as an image. Use F6 again to deactivate it.

When the program is in frame output mode, it does not run in real time but it adjusts the internal clock to produce as many frames per second as specified here. You have to take it into account when you later use your favourite video encoder (ffmpeg) to convert the frame images into a video.

Camera recording

Here you can set the desired frames per second to capture the camera paths. If your device is not fast enough in producing the specified frame rate, the application will slow down while recording so that enough frames are captured. Same behaviour will be uploading during camera playback.

You can also enable automatic frame recording during playback. This will automatically activate the frame output system (see Frame output) during a camera file playback.

360 mode

Here you can define the cube map side resolution for the 360 mode. With this mode a cube map will be rendered (the whole scene in all direction +X, -X, +Y, -Y, +Z, -Z) and then it will be transformed into a flat image using an equirectangular projection. This allows for the creation of 360 (VR) videos.

360 mode in Gaia Sky

360 mode in Gaia Sky


As of version 1.0.0 you can use the Data tab to select the catalogue to load. Gaia Sky ships with two catalogues by default:

  • TGAS This is based on the Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution (source and contains a little over 600.000 stars. This catalogue uses levels of detail which can be configured in the Performance tab.

  • HYG This is the Hipparcos, Gliese and Yale Bright Stars (home page, GitHub repository) and contains roughly some 100.000 stars.


Here you can choose the attitude of the satellite. You can either use the real attitude (takes a while to load but will ensure that Gaia points to where it should) and the NSL, which is an analytical implementation of the nominal attitude of the satellite. It behaves the same as the real thing, but the observation direction is not ensured.