Plotting stars on dynamic sphere texture

I have a sphere with the winding reversed so that I can texture the inside, and wish it act as star-dome. Using data from a star catalog I want to dynamically texture the sphere by plotting the stars on it for a given day/time.

I have created a basic 4-color striped texture using a script and it makes the sphere look like a beach ball. But I am struggling with more accurate creation of texture, what size should I make it relative to the size of my sphere, and how can I plot using spherical coordinates on this texture?

If you’re texturing the whole celestial sphere, then does it need to be dynamic? Unless you’re going to the detail of simulating relative parallax of stars, you can probably get away with a static texture (maybe derived from a sky panorama [like these][1]) and rotate the celestial sphere over time. Items that move noticeably, like planets, can be rendered as quads on top, rather than baked-into the texture. This will likely give much better performance than generating the texture at runtime.

If you do need to plot, I’d advise using a cubemap instead of spherical coordinates. There are some (Pro) functions to [generate a cubemap using a camera][2] - you could position quads where you want each star, or use a particle system with manually-positioned particles to draw a lot of them. Then let Unity’s rendering pipeline handle actually creating the texture out of it.


For Unity Free, I’d still recommend a cubemap over other spherical projections. Using an equirectangular (lat/long) projection, for instance, wastes a lot of resolution at the poles, and will make your stars smeared at the equator but aliased at the poles. A cubemap has much more uniform resolution, which can lead to less waste and more consistent appearance of your stars. For example, a 512-pixel-wide cubemap gives you as much equatorial resolution as a 2048 equirectangular, but uses 25% less texture memory.

You can initialize a cubemap like this:

	cubemap = new Cubemap(cubemapSize, TextureFormat.RGB24, false);

	Color[][] colorBuffer = new Color[6][];

	for(int i = 0; i < 6; i++)
		colorBuffer _= new Color[cubemapSize * cubemapSize];_
  •   }*
  •   foreach(var star in starCollection)*
  •   {*
  •        PlotCubemapPixel(star.direction, star.color, colorBuffer);* 
  •   }*
  •   cubemap.SetPixels(colorBuffer[(int)CubemapFace.PositiveX], CubemapFace.PositiveX);*
  •   cubemap.SetPixels(colorBuffer[(int)CubemapFace.NegativeX], CubemapFace.NegativeX);*
  •   cubemap.SetPixels(colorBuffer[(int)CubemapFace.PositiveY], CubemapFace.PositiveY);*
  •   cubemap.SetPixels(colorBuffer[(int)CubemapFace.NegativeY], CubemapFace.NegativeY);*
  •   cubemap.SetPixels(colorBuffer[(int)CubemapFace.PositiveZ], CubemapFace.PositiveZ);*
  •   cubemap.SetPixels(colorBuffer[(int)CubemapFace.NegativeZ], CubemapFace.NegativeZ);*
  •   cubemap.Apply();*
  •   RenderSettings.skybox.SetTexture("_Tex", cubemap);*

If you want, you can initialize a face of your cubemap color buffer at a time with a background texture (say, the milky way) before plotting your stars on top, [following the example here][3].
Stars can be placed using a pixel-plotting function like:

  • void PlotCubemapPixel(Vector3 direction, Color color, Color colorBuffer)*
  • {*
  •   CubemapFace face;*
  •   Vector3 absDirection = new Vector3(Mathf.Abs(direction.x), Mathf.Abs(direction.y), Mathf.Abs(direction.z));*
  •   Vector2 position =;*
  •   if(absDirection.x > absDirection.y && absDirection.x > absDirection.z)*
  •   {*
  •   	face = direction.x > 0 ? CubemapFace.PositiveX : CubemapFace.NegativeX;*
  •   	position.x = -direction.z/direction.x;*
  •   	position.y = direction.y/absDirection.x;*
  •   }*
  •   else if(absDirection.y > absDirection.z)*
  •   {*
  •   	face = direction.y > 0 ? CubemapFace.PositiveY : CubemapFace.NegativeY;*
  •   	position.x = direction.x/absDirection.y;*
  •   	position.y = -direction.z/direction.y;*
  •   }*
  •   else*
  •   {*
  •   	face = direction.z > 0 ? CubemapFace.PositiveZ : CubemapFace.NegativeZ;*
  •   	position.x = direction.x/direction.z;*
  •   	position.y = direction.y/absDirection.z;*
  •   }*

_ position = 0.5f * (position +;_
_ int pX = Mathf.Clamp(Mathf.FloorToInt(cubemapSize * position.x), 0, cubemapSize - 1);_
_ int pY = Mathf.Clamp(Mathf.FloorToInt(cubemapSize * (1f - position.y)), 0, cubemapSize - 1);_
_ int index = pX + cubemapSize * pY;_