This site is the PyEphem home page

Simply scroll down to find:

Installation Guide
Documentation
Data Sources

Download PyEphem for Windows, Linux, or as source code, directly from the Python Package Index.

PyPI PyEphem page
Includes Windows installers!

Source code
As a .tar.gz file

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>>> import ephem
>>> mars = ephem.Mars()
>>> mars.compute()
>>> print mars.ra, mars.dec
6:05:56.34 23:23:40.0
>>> ephem.constellation(mars)
('Gem', 'Gemini')
>>> boston = ephem.Observer()
>>> boston.lat = '42.37'
>>> boston.lon = '-71.03'
>>> mars.compute(boston)
>>> print mars.az, mars.alt
37:55:48.9 -14:23:11.8
>>> boston.next_rising(mars)
2007/10/2 02:31:51
>>> print mars.az
56:52:52.1
>>> boston.next_transit(mars)
2007/10/2 10:07:47
>>> print mars.alt
71:02:16.3

PyEphem is in maintenance mode

The PyEphem astronomy library has helped generations of Python programmers locate the stars, planets, and Earth satellites. It will continue to receive bugfixes and will be ported to new versions of Python, but it no longer stands at the cutting edge of astronomy in Python.

See below for newer alternatives that offer a more Pythonic approach to astronomy in Python!

What is PyEphem?

PyEphem provides basic astronomical computations for the Python programming language. Given a date and location on the Earth’s surface, it can compute the positions of the Sun and Moon, of the planets and their moons, and of any asteroids, comets, or earth satellites whose orbital elements the user can provide. Additional functions are provided to compute the angular separation between two objects in the sky, to determine the constellation in which an object lies, and to find the times at which an object rises, transits, and sets on a particular day.

The numerical routines that lie behind PyEphem are those from the wonderful XEphem astronomy application, whose author, Elwood Downey, generously gave permission for us to use them as the basis for PyEphem.

Awkward edges

PyEphem’s design has several flaws that have been avoided by the newer astronomy libraries listed in the next section. Among the problems it creates for Python programmers are:

  • Instead of offering a clear way for the user to specify units of radians or degrees, PyEphem uses the terrible and confusing convention that floats like 1.23 mean radians but strings like '1.23' mean degrees of declination and hours of right ascension. This has wasted many hours of programmer time and confusion over the years, is completely unnatural and at odds with how Python usually works, and can never be fixed because it would break all existing PyEphem programs.
  • The API is also awkward because it mutates objects in-place instead of returning results. Instead of returning coordinates directly, compute() updates several fields on its object — reflecting how the underlying C library works, which I didn’t write. This makes a second line of code necessary to go fetch the coordinates from the object.
  • PyEphem is difficult to release and difficult for many people to install, because some of its code is written in the C language and so a compiler is needed.
  • PyEphem does not interoperate with NumPy and so is awkward to use in a modern IPython Notebook.

For all of these reasons, PyEphem might not be the best choice for a new project.

Two Alternatives

As the principle author of PyEphem, I — Brandon Rhodes — had often thought about starting over again so I would have a second chance to avoid the mistakes I made with PyEphem! It was only in 2013 that I discovered an excellent excuse: back in the year 2000, the IAU (International Astronomical Union) had thoroughly upgraded how astronomical positions are measured to allow much higher accuracy. So a rewrite could serve two purposes! Instead of simply rewriting what PyEphem did, but in better Python, I could implement the newer standards of measurement and deliver much higher precision.

Following the United States Naval Observatory’s free “NOVAS” library’s C code as my example (for which they also maintain a Python interface), I started writing a new library that I named “Skyfield” with the goal of implementing the highest accuracy algorithms, using only Python and NumPy, behind a beautiful Pythonic API. Version 1.0 was released in early 2017 and both I and a few other contributions continue to add new features:

The Skyfield astronomy library

I recommend using Skyfield instead of PyEphem if it’s possible for your new project to do so! (The only thing missing at this point is predicting positions from Kelperian orbital elements for comets and asteroids.)

If you are a professional astronomer interested in writing programs that interoperate with those of other astronomers, you will also want to consider Astropy. While it is not as sleek as Skyfield — it bundles many dependencies written in other languages and was not designed for beginners — it is a much more comprehensive toolkit that is very popular with professional astronomers:

The Astropy astronomy library

But if you want it anyway, PyEphem is still available.

Installation

Version 3.7.7.0 is the most recent release of PyEphem. Consult the change log to see the new features!

The easiest way to install PyEphem on a Linux or Mac OS machine, after making sure that “Python.h” and the other Python header files are installed (which on Ubuntu requires the “python-dev” package), is to use the pip command, like this:

$ pip install pyephem

Better yet, you can use virtualenv to create a virtual environment, and then run its pip instead of your system-wide one. Then you will avoid having to gain administrator rights on your machine before performing the installation.

If instead you want to download the Windows installer or even the raw PyEphem source code, you should visit the PyEphem entry at the Python Package Index, or use the links at the top of this page.