Cosmographia: Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make Cosmographia run faster?

There are a number of configuration options that improve the quality of the visuals in Cosmographia at the expense of speed. If Cosmographia is running slowly, you can disable some of the features. They are controlled in the tab in the Settings panel. For maximum performance:

Everything is too dark. How can I fix it?

Go to the Graphics tab in the settings panel and move the extra light slider to the right. This will add some fill light to the shadowed portions of the scene. Turning off extra light completely is the most realistic option and gives the most dramatic visuals. But, sometimes you just need to see whats going on. You may also want to disable the eclipse shadows in some cases. Spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO) spend almost half of each orbit in darkness because the Sun is blocked by the Earth.

How realistic is Cosmographia?

This is a complex question, but in general: very. The sizes and distances between all objects are correct. All of the planet maps are built from images acquired by various space missions. Unmapped areas are indicated by areas of solid color (in no case are they painted in with synthesized or cloned data.) There are only two cases where something has been faked:

  1. We have no information about the shape of some asteroids and small moons. For these objects, the shape model of a similarly sized object is substituted. For example, the models of Nix and Hydra—small moons of Pluto—are actually models of main belt asteroids. When the shape of an object isn't known, a note about shape model substitution will appear in the descriptive text.
  2. When a model of a spacecraft isn't available, a generic satellite model has been substituted. This is currently the situtation for the GPS satellites. The right models will be added eventually.

Why aren't all moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune shown?

For example, Cosmographia currently includes just five of Jupiter's 64 known moons. While the rest will be added to a future version of the software, it is important to remember that most of these missing moons are rocks only a few kilometers in diameter and little is known about them aside from the orbits and approximate sizes. They haven't been visited by spacecraft, and the most powerful telescopes see them as nothing more than points of light. The exceptions are a few of Saturn's small moons such as Helene and Epimetheus, which are interesting enough and accessible enough to have been imaged by Cassini at close distances.

Can I use images and video generated by Cosmographia in my website, book or film?

Yes. There is no special permission required, but in your final work a credit that mentions Cosmographia is appreciated.

Can I add my own objects (spacecraft, asteroids, etc.)?

Yes, but the documentation on how to do this is not yet complete. If you need to customize Cosmographia now, send a note to for help.

How do I use viewpoint URLs

A Cosmographia viewpoint URL contains all the information about the viewer's position and orientation, as well as the current time and time rate in the simulation. Viewpoint URLs make it easy to share "live" space views with other users. They are used throughout the object information pages in Cosmographia: each link at the end of a planet or moon description is a viewpoint URL. As of version 1.2.0, viewpoint URLs can be used by other application as well, such as a web browser. Clicking on this example link should launch Cosmographia and show a view of the Dawn spacecraft in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. (The first time you click on a Cosmographia viewpoint URL, your web browser may asked your permission to launch Cosmographia; select 'yes'.)

To save the current view as a viewpoint URL, press Command-U on a Mac or Control-U on a PC to copy it to the clipboard. Then, paste it into an email message, HTML file or other document. Viewpoint URLs contain a lot of information and so tend to be quite long—too long to share with services like Twitter unless you use a URL shortener. Not all URL shortening services work with app-specific URL types. One that does work well is