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Video: Starry Night Pro | How to add Tesla Roadster/Starman (Video)

Anybody have the orbital characteristics of the Tesla Roadster/Starman?
I was looking in the JPL Small-Body Database Browser
But I don't know it's IAU number, name, or designation, if it has one yet.


  • 0
    Will Marchant

    I looked at the spacecraft list in and didn't find it.

  • 0
    Thomas Luthman

    How do you get the spacecraft list at that link?

    I know, for instance, how to get coordinates from the JPL email-bot if you know the codes
    (for example, Voyager 1 is -31, Voyager 2 is -32).   

    But I don't know the code for this, if it's in there at all.

  • 0
    Will Marchant

    Next to "target body" is a clickable link labeled "change".  Click that and you get a new set of options at the bottom of the page: lookup and choose.  Under choose is a pulldown list where you can select "spacecraft".  Then hit the "display list" button and you'll get a cool list of a bunch of spacecraft.  But I didn't see anything for the Falcon launch.  It wouldn't surprise me if it took a few days to turn the crank and get that added.


    Bill Gray on the SeeSat-L list says he's trying to interest in displaying data.  So that may be another place to watch...

  • 0
    Will Marchant
  • 0

    Much of the above came out last night.  Jonathan McDowell posted this on Twitter: 
    The Roadster is now available in JPL Horizons ; select target body -143205

    Here's Bill Gray's updated info, based on the above. It seems to have many of the input values:

    But I'll be honest, I quickly get lost trying to figure out what to put in the Orbit Editor fields, pulldown options, etc., even with all this.  Is it a satellite?  Is it an asteroid? Is it a space mission?  Which Style - pericentric, near circular?  Which Reference Plane?   Again, Bill Gray's info has some of the element values, but not all.  If anyone knows to set up the Orbit Editor, please post it here.  I'd appreciate the help.


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    It occurs to me, I've been doing this for 18 years, now, and I still haven't figured out orbits.  This is a screen clip of the 2001 Jupiter Monolith I added to my Starry Night for Mac in 1999. Monitors were 13", 72 dpi back then.

  • 0
    Thomas Luthman

    Someone on another messagebase answered my query. Preliminary orbital elements for Tesla Roadster/Starman.


    From Bill Gray of Project Pluto, tweaked with images during the escape burn, preliminary orbital elements were:

    Orbital elements: 2018-017X
    Perigee 2018 Feb 7.108542 +/- 0.000217 TT = 2:36:18 (JD 2458156.608542)
    Epoch 2018 Feb 8.0 TT = JDT 2458157.5 Gray
    q 7131.80034 +/- 1.97 (J2000 equator)
    Peri. 152.15202 +/- 0.024
    Node 285.31375 +/- 0.0012
    e 1.2024743 +/- 0.000383 Incl. 29.21177 +/- 0.0018

    Orbital elements: 2018-017X
    Perihelion 2018 Feb 6.490939 TT = 11:46:57 (JD 2458155.990939)
    Epoch 2018 Feb 10.0 TT = JDT 2458159.5 Earth MOID: 0.0002 Ma: 0.0114
    M 2.25389 (J2000 ecliptic)
    n 0.64230639 Peri. 180.09192
    a 1.33037645 Node 317.25015
    e 0.2585965 Incl. 0.74743
    P 1.53/560.47d q 0.98634572 Q 1.67440719

    These are completely "unofficial" at this point.


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    This isn't Bill Gray's updated info.  It's his original elements before JPL posted the Roadster's orbit info.  His updated elements are here:, as he posted on SeeSat-L.

    I haven't had a chance to check the postings since then, but, at least on the above, he doesn't show all the info needed to fill in the SNP Orbit Editor.  So, for me, anyway, I'm still stuck.

  • 0
    Graham Johnson

    Has anyone had any luck with adding this, as I would love to add it to my software.

  • 0

    To get the latest data:

    Use "Target Body" --> Change to "Roadster", then make a search and hit "Generate Ephemeris". This will output the actual data.

    But still, how to input into "Starry Night Pro"?

  • 0
    Graham Johnson

    @Fey I have just made a video on how to import the SpaceX Teslar Roadster into Starry Night Pro.



  • 0
    Thomas Luthman



  • 0
    Thomas Luthman

    Thanks, that the Tesla Roadster / Starman 's JPL database designation is -14305 is the info I was
    looking for.

    So I emailed the JPL-email-bot and it spat back this.

     Revised: Feb 20, 2018          Tesla Roadster (spacecraft)             -143205
              (solution #8)

     Tesla Roadster (AKA: Starman, 2018-017A)

      The trajectory estimate will be updated here in the days ahead if more
      measurement data is reported.

      Visibility: 20th magnitude until Feb 20, 22nd magnitude through early April,
      brighter than 26th magnitude into June.

      2018-Feb-06 20:45 UTC by Falcon Heavy (FH-1) from Kennedy Space Center, USA
      (launchpad 39A)

      Dummy payload from the first launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.
      Consists of a standard Tesla Roadster automobile and a spacesuit-wearing
      mannequin nicknamed "Starman".

      Also includes a Hot Wheels toy model Roadster on the car's dash with a
      mini-Starman inside. A data storage device placed inside the car contains
      a copy of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels. A plaque on the attachment
      fitting between the Falcon Heavy upper stage and the Tesla is etched with
      the names of more than 6,000 SpaceX employees.

      After orbiting the Earth for 5 hours, a third burn by the second stage was
      completed at approximately 02:30 UTC Feb 7, placing the dummy payload in a
      heliocentric orbit having a perihelion of 0.99 au and aphelion ~1.67 au.

      The object stack consists of a Merlin 1D Vacuum second stage with Extended
      Nozzle, Payload Attachment Fitting, and Tesla Roadster on mount.

      Roadster mass: ~1250 kg (with batteries), ~800 kg (without ESS/batteries)

      This trajectory is based on JPL solution #8, a fit to 330 ground-based
      optical astrometric measurements spanning 2018 Feb 8.2 to 18.3

      Trajectory name                       Start (TDB)          Stop (TDB)
      --------------------------------   -----------------   -----------------
      tesla_s8                           2018-Feb-07 03:00   2048-Jan-01 00:00

      Encounter predictions for s8 (with gravity-only dynamics):

        Date (TDB)      Body  CA Dist  MinDist  MaxDist  Vrel  TCA3Sg  Nsigs  P_i/p
      ----------------- ----- -------  -------  ------- ------ ------ ------ ------
      2018 Feb 08.09700 Moon  .000936  .000936  .000936  3.962   0.42 40889.  0.000
      2020 Oct 07.27671 Mars  .049248  .048632  .049996  8.132  29.03 6.68E5  0.000
      2035 Apr 22.31261 Mars  .021004  .007334  .035038  8.315 142.40 37596.  0.000
      2047 Jan 12.52967 Earth .029674  .019448  .039078  4.422 4391.7 73261.  0.000
      2050 Mar 19.02367 Earth .113309  .089472  .135482  7.215 2540.6 2.42E5  0.000

         Date    = Nominal encounter time (Barycentric Dynamical Time)
         CA_Dist = Highest probability close approach distance to body, au
         MinDist = 3-sigma minimum encounter distance, au
         MaxDist = 3-sigma maximum encounter distance, au
         Vrel    = Relative velocity at nominal encounter time, km/s
         TCA3Sg  = 3-sigma uncertainty in close enocunter time, minutes
         Nsigs   = Number of sigmas to encounter body at nominal encounter time
         P_i/p   = Linearized probability of impact

      How to obtain optional statistical uncertainty output & generate an SPK file:

      Since this is a spacecraft and not part of the asteroid and comet database
      which normally holds orbit covariance data, some functions like statistical
      output and SPK file generation aren't automatically available for this object.

      However, with some extra steps, such optional extended output is possible
      in this case.

      To propagate statistical uncertainties for this object, the full statistical
      orbit solution (given below) can be manually input back into Horizons as a
      "user-defined object" using the telnet or e-mail interfaces (not possible
      with the browser interface).

      To do this and activate statistical or SPK file output ...

      Using the telnet interface (command-line "telnet 6775"),
      enter ";" to drop into user-input mode then cut-and-paste each line shown
      below, one at a time. The lines of numbers after SRC must be in the order

      For SPK file generation, only the first three lines need be input; the
      EPOCH and orbital element lines starting with "EC" and "OM".

      SRC lines are needed only for statistical output, the H & G values only
      for visual magnitude output.

      EPOCH= 2458161.5
       EC= .2605617969679692  QR= .986061946474019  TP= 2458153.658830588476
       OM= 317.4100916677914  W = 177.3002372702468  IN= 1.096465162480806
       SRC= 2.215648860985859E-7 -6.978166940838508E-9 1.747703101626183E-9
            6.838107985591074E-7 -2.785083038219253E-9 1.623752951763019E-6
            2.676579519565857E-7 4.428313428313642E-9 2.245727600074333E-5
            3.906772819853299E-7 7.548892835768459E-7 6.893942303902765E-9
            -2.440888593071481E-5 -2.00112779439303E-6 1.694365063698046E-6
            2.774779936165686E-5 2.475181137432366E-8 .0002597834543639343
            2.183107215200873E-6 2.157965362478634E-6 1.889595619028567E-6
        H= 25.257 G= 0.15

      When done, press a blank return to exit input mode.

      Enter "J" at the prompt to indicate heliocentric J2000 ecliptic data has
      been supplied. Then at the next prompt, input an arbitrary name
      (i.e., Roadster).

      Horizons will then proceed as usual, but with statistical output and SPK
      file generation now available as options.

      A basic and identical tracking ephemeris can be produced without doing any
      of this, but statistical uncertainty quantities requested will be marked
      "n.a.", meaning not available, and SPK generation won't be an option..

      NOTE: long-term predictions

      Over time, trajectory prediction errors could increase more rapidly
      than the formal statistics indicate due to unmodeled solar pressure,
      thermal re-radiation, or outgassing accelerations that are not currently
      characterized but may exist.

    Ephemeris / MAIL_REQUEST Thu Mar  1 10:27:41 2018 Pasadena, USA  / Horizons
    Target body name: SpaceX Roadster (spacecraft) (-143205) {source: tesla_s8}
    Center body name: Sun (10)                        {source: DE431mx}
    Center-site name: BODY CENTER
    Start time      : A.D. 2018-Mar-02 13:25:00.0000 TDB
    Stop  time      : A.D. 2018-Mar-02 13:25:01.0000 TDB
    Step-size       : 60 minutes
    Center geodetic : 0.00000000,0.00000000,0.0000000 {E-lon(deg),Lat(deg),Alt(km)}
    Center cylindric: 0.00000000,0.00000000,0.0000000 {E-lon(deg),Dxy(km),Dz(km)}
    Center radii    : 696000.0 x 696000.0 x 696000.0 k{Equator, meridian, pole}
    Keplerian GM    : 1.3271244004193930E+11 km^3/s^2
    Output units    : KM-S, deg, Julian Day Number (Tp)
    Output type     : GEOMETRIC osculating elements
    Output format   : 10
    Reference frame : ICRF/J2000.0
    Coordinate systm: Ecliptic and Mean Equinox of Reference Epoch
       EC    QR   IN
       OM    W    Tp
       N     MA   TA
       A     AD   PR
    2458180.059027778 = A.D. 2018-Mar-02 13:25:00.0000 TDB
     EC= 2.563932000786699E-01 QR= 1.475121159297403E+08 IN= 1.080002051466089E+00
     OM= 3.172299386700017E+02 W = 1.773818012354794E+02 Tp=  2458153.549923829734
     N = 7.470539034750749E-06 MA= 1.711042235902635E+01 TA= 2.937830245190548E+01
     A = 1.983738125382210E+08 AD= 2.492355091467017E+08 PR= 4.818929374779865E+07
    Coordinate system description:

      Ecliptic and Mean Equinox of Reference Epoch

        Reference epoch: J2000.0
        XY-plane: plane of the Earth's orbit at the reference epoch
                  Note: obliquity of 84381.448 arcseconds wrt ICRF equator (IAU76)
        X-axis  : out along ascending node of instantaneous plane of the Earth's
                  orbit and the Earth's mean equator at the reference epoch
        Z-axis  : perpendicular to the xy-plane in the directional (+ or -) sense
                  of Earth's north pole at the reference epoch.

      Symbol meaning:

        JDTDB    Julian Day Number, Barycentric Dynamical Time
          EC     Eccentricity, e
          QR     Periapsis distance, q (km)
          IN     Inclination w.r.t XY-plane, i (degrees)
          OM     Longitude of Ascending Node, OMEGA, (degrees)
          W      Argument of Perifocus, w (degrees)
          Tp     Time of periapsis (Julian Day Number)
          N      Mean motion, n (degrees/sec)
          MA     Mean anomaly, M (degrees)
          TA     True anomaly, nu (degrees)
          A      Semi-major axis, a (km)
          AD     Apoapsis distance (km)
          PR     Sidereal orbit period (sec)

    Geometric states/elements have no aberrations applied.

     Computations by ...
         Solar System Dynamics Group, Horizons On-Line Ephemeris System
         4800 Oak Grove Drive, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
         Pasadena, CA  91109   USA
         Connect    : telnet://  (via browser)
                      telnet 6775    (via command-line)
         Author     :

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    Graham Johnson, Thanks for that video! Appreciate this, however I do get false results when I enter "Location x,y,z" and "Velocity x,y,z" from the into Starry Night 6 or 7, because for an asteroid orbiting sun I need "Mean distance, Eccentricity, Inclination, Ascending Node, Arg of Pericentre, Mean Anomaly" . If I follow your advice and just copy those 6 numbers, then I get a complete false result of an object rotating very close around the sun. Best regards , Rolf

  • 0
    Thomas Luthman


    So, plugging these into my very ancient Starry Night (1.0 probably) I have 7,
    but I'm more comfortable using the old one.

    New orbiting object, asteroid

    Near-circular Eliptic 2000
    1 mean distance (a) in AU
    2 eccentricity (e)
    3 inclination (i)
    4 ascending node
    5 arg of pericenter
    6 Mean Anomaly L
    7 epoch (julian day)

    1 A = 1.983738125382210E+08 in kilometers, convert to AU:

    2 eccentricity EC= 2.563932000786699E-01
    3 IN= 1.080002051466089E+00
    4 OM= 3.172299386700017E+02
    5 W = 1.773818012354794E+02
    6 MA= 1.711042235902635E+01
    7 EPOCH= 2458161.5

    so, 1: 198373812.5382210 kilometers / # of kilometers in an AU 1.496e+8
    198373812.5382210 / 149600000 = AU 1.326028158677948
    2. eccentricity .2563932
    3 inclination 1.080002051466089
    4 ascending node 317.2299386700017
    5 arg of pericenter 177.3818012354794
    6. MA 17.11942235902635
    7 EPOCH= 2458161.5

    Now I make it 1 kilometer across (sue me, I exagerate) asteroid
    and paint it with a JPG of starman

    Looks right to me. I'm at least in the ballpark.

    I guarantee I'm not off by more than the width of 1 solar system!   :)

  • 0
    Thomas Luthman


    9/7/2020 .310 AU
    9/17/2020 .281
    9/24/2020 .268
    9/28/2020 .265 AU
    9/29/2020 .264 AU
    9/30/2020 .264 AU
    10/1/2020 .264 AU
    10/2/2020 .264 AU
    10/3/2020 .264 AU
    10/4/2020 .264 AU
    10/5/2020 .265 AU
    10/7/2020 .266 AU
    11/1/2020 .342 AU

     "In 2020, the car will pass about 6.9 million kilometers from Mars"

    .264 Au= 39,493,838 kilometers

    I can't get it to come closer than 39 million kilometers, so something's not quite right.

    Oh, what's 32 million kilometers, give or take...

    Maybe I should try it in Starry Night 7.

    Maybe my ancient 1.0 or whatever Starry Night is putting *MARS* in the wrong place!

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