Friday, February 18, 2022

frustrated by Stellarium bugs

While observing the level 2 course yesterday, as Ian walked through the process of adding a comet by using the Online search feature, I saw right away something was not working right...

Nothing came up as a search result!

Normally—assuming you use the official designation, correct syntax and case—a suggested entry will appear that you can then select to add to the database of solar system objects.


He was using Stellarium on his Mac.

I tried it immediately on my Windows machine.

Same issue. No result.

I did notice the progress bar briefly flashing at the bottom-right but with the value 0%...

Some of the class participants reported success so it was not my first suspicion that the MPC server was down...

It was not working for any of us running the latest version 0.21.3. Oh oh. A bug in the newest Stellarium!

I jumped into GitHub and looked for a bug report. Nothing.

So I created a issue ticket with some quick notes...

At the end of the course, after 9:00 PM, during the social and Q&A, I offered to show another method, the List method. It works fine.

At 23:41, someone (or a bot) on GitHub responded.

The hardware info, steps of reproduction and log file are really important and help us resolve over 90% issues fast.  Of course, in some specific cases we need more data, but we ask the required data separately...

Come on. I'm not some noob...

In the morning, I spotted another GitHub message, this time from Alexander W. At 4:06 AM local time, he said, "Please try remove older verson before installing v0.21.3." [SIC] 

At 10:23 AM, I posted a request on the Stellarium Classroom, asking for help in testing the bug.

I posted on GitHub:

I'm collecting data.  I'll pull the log file. 

But one datum is that this was on a completely fresh install.

Forgot another datum:

If I try Online search, after it fails, I cannot use the Lists tab.  It's all locked out.  A restart of Stellarium presents the Lists tab normally and in fact a comet can be found by this means.  So the 2 takeaways:

The failure of the Online search breaks the normal function in the Import data window.

Users can still add comets but not by using the Online search tab.

10:32 AM, I captured the LOG.TXT file from the Stellarium instance and posted that for the developers to noodle on.

A couple hours later, a good message rolled in from GitHub:

GitHub update from the developers

Yes. Vindicated. Ooh. High importance!

Warned Chris V of the issue. He replied at 12:31 PM, "That's good to know."

And I updated Ian. He replied at 9:49.  He was glad to hear they were working on it "with some urgency."


There are good things happening with Stellarium but some troublesome bugs of late.

Chris and I are very upset with the breaking of the bookmarks feature. We were excitedly building observing lists and they don't work now.

We've had to drop the topic from our Stellarium training courses.


Everything was working well up to Stellarium version 0.21.1. 

The bookmarks feature proper offered a number of useful features. For example, you could store an object with a date and time attached and/or a location attached. Chris and I (and others) found this useful for The Sky This Month presentations where the date and time were often important, say for planetary appulses at sunset, or interesting conjunctions at sunrise. Chris and I started building observing lists, without date, time, or location, for general purposes and RASC observing certificate programs. 

In fact, we built an observing lists page on the RASC Toronto Centre web site in the spring and summer of 2021. Chris, Arnold, and I shared The Sky This Month target lists. I made the Explore The Universe and Double Stars certificate program lists. Chris made the Explore The Moon (binocular and telescope) and Finest NGC

We vetted each others files.

We also figured out ways to hack the files a little with columns of additional data.

Chris continues to make lists for his Beyond Messier column in SkyNews. We encouraged people use them and described how to download and install the JSON files.

11 April 2021, I also put the JSON file for the Double Stars on the national web site.

Also, in an interesting though clunky manner, one could generate JSON files inside Stellarium using the Astronomical Calculator tool.

Then on 27 Sep 2021, it all went to hell.


6 Oct 2021, 6:17 PM. Chris texted me. "Stellarium 0.21.2 was released a week ago. Just looking at what's new, now..." He noted excitedly there was a new "Observing Lists" feature. He said the "go to next twilight" was very easy to use. Read that many Astro/Calc items were addressed.

I warmed up the laptop and installed it. 

And then he said, "No more Bookmarks!"

Roh roh.

Chris could not import any of his old bookmark (JSON) files. They did not load. Oh no...

I wondered if they are using a different file format or a dramatically different structure. Chris noticed a very different appearance in the Observing Lists screen. Now no way off associating varying dates and times with objects.

I said "that screws up the presentation aspect of bookmarks."

He agreed. He said there was nothing in the user manual. Figures.

Chris jumped on GitHub. "Folks are fuming." he said and he decided to revert to the previous version.

Chris thought the Astro/Calc Positions tab was Observing List-ready. He lamented "Why screw up Bookmarks?"

I relayed my great distaste when programmers removed features. "Leave 'em, add new stuff, see if people shift over."

I had a close look at the software and the web site. 

The Stellarium v0.21.2 release notes stated, under the major changes, that the old "Bookmarks replaced by Observation Lists."

The date, time, location associations with bookmarks were removed, as Chris noted.

The export to JSON from the Astronomical Calculations was removed.

We had to tell people about this new problem!


25 Dec 2021, 1:00 PM. Chris V told me of Stellarium 0.21.3. Woo hoo. There is a Santa Claus. I wanted to open the neat Christmas present but I couldn't. Not right away. Mom's Mac was running OS 10.11 and Stellarium wanted OS 10.12. Gar! 

Chris said he was sticking with 0.21.1, for the bookmarks!

I posted on the Stellarium training forum a few days later that a new version of Stellarium was out but the bookmarks feature was still broken.


21 Jan 2022, 4:22 PM. Chris sent over three of the four JSON files for the Levy Deep Sky Gems. Four days later he sent the final file.

Maybe these are of limited use, but I'll stick with v0.21.1 and use them extensively for Beyond Messier and for pursuing the DSG certificate.

Busy at the time, I didn't get a chance to check his files.

On the evening of 26 Jan, I finally shook down his work. Sent my review.

A little challenging (again) in part due to the little issues in the Observer's Handbook... That's a story for another day.

On 27 Jan at 11:43, Chris thanked me for the deep dive and uploaded his files to the RASC TO site.


I had a look one day in GitHub to learn more about the bookmarks issue. It seemed like it was a contentious issue where one developer went off on his own and deployed new code without any consultation. That upset the other developers in addition to the users. 

I did not get a clear sense of how it would be resolved...

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