SkyPortal requires the following software to be installed. We show how to install them on MacOS and Debian-based systems below.

  • Python 3.8 or later (<3.11, since numba requires <3.11)

  • Supervisor (v>=4.2.1)

  • NGINX (v>=1.7)

  • PostgreSQL (v>=14.0)

  • Node.JS/npm (v>=16.14.0/8.3.2)

When installing SkyPortal on Debian-based systems, 2 additional packages are required to be able to install pycurl later on:

  • libcurl4-gnutls-dev

  • libgnutls28-dev

Source download, Python environment

Clone the SkyPortal repository and start a new virtual environment.

git clone
cd skyportal/
virtualenv skyportal_env
source skyportal_env/bin/activate

You can also use conda or pipenv to create your environment.

If you developing on a Mac with an ARM (M1/M2) you might consider using a Rosetta-driven environment so that you more easily install dependencies (that tend to be x86-centric):

CONDA_SUBDIR=osx-64 conda create -n skyportal_env \
conda activate skyportal_env
conda config --env --set subdir osx-64
conda config --add channels conda-forge
conda config --set channel_priority strict

If you are using Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) be sure you clone the repository onto a location on the virtual machine, not the mounted Windows drive. Additionally, we recommend that you use WSL 2, and not WSL 1, in order to avoid complications in interfacing with the Linux image’s localhost network.

Installation: MacOS

These instructions assume that you have Homebrew installed.

  1. Install dependencies

    brew install supervisor nginx postgresql node \
         llvm libomp gsl rust
    nvm install node
  2. Start the PostgreSQL server:

  • To start automatically at login: brew services start postgresql

  • To start manually: pg_ctl -D /usr/local/var/postgres start

You may also need to run the following command to create the proper admin user:

/usr/local/opt/postgres/bin/createuser -s postgres
  1. To run the test suite, you’ll need Geckodriver:

    brew install geckodriver
  2. To build the docs, you’ll need graphviz:

    brew install graphviz
  3. Activate the environment and add a few (hard-to install-with-pip) packages by hand:

    conda activate skyportal_env
    conda install pyproj numba Shapely
  4. (ARM M1/M2) Explicitly install ligo.skymap using conda rather than pip:

    conda activate skyportal_env
    conda install ligo.skymap

Installation: Debian-based Linux and WSL

  1. Install dependencies

    sudo apt install nginx supervisor postgresql \
          libpq-dev npm python3-pip \
          libcurl4-gnutls-dev libgnutls28-dev
  2. Configure your database permissions.

    In pg_hba.conf (typically located in /etc/postgresql/<postgres-version>/main), insert the following lines before any other host lines:

    host skyportal skyportal trust
    host skyportal_test skyportal trust
    host all postgres trust

    If you are deploying SkyPortal using IPv6 rather than IPv4, you should add the following lines instead:

    host skyportal skyportal ::1/128 trust
    host skyportal_test skyportal ::1/128 trust
    host all postgres ::1/128 trust

    In some PostgreSQL installations, the default TCP port may be different from the 5432 value assumed in our default configuration file values. To remedy this, you can either edit your config.yaml file to reflect your system’s PostgreSQL default port, or update your system-wide config to use port 5432 by editing /etc/postgresql/14/main/postgresql.conf (replace “14” with your installed version number) and changing the line port = XXXX (where “XXXX” is whatever the system default was) to port = 5432.

    Restart PostgreSQL:

    sudo service postgresql restart
  3. To run the test suite, you’ll need Geckodriver:

    • Download the latest version from

    • Extract the binary to somewhere on your path

    • Ensure it runs with geckodriver --version

    In later versions of Ubuntu (16.04+), you can install Geckodriver through apt:

    sudo apt install firefox-geckodriver
  4. To build the docs, you’ll need graphviz:

    sudo apt install graphviz-dev graphviz


  1. Make sure you are in the skyportal env: conda activate skyportal_env

  2. Initialize the database with make db_init (this only needs to happen once).

  3. Copy config.yaml.defaults to config.yaml.

  4. Run make log to monitor the service and, in a separate window, make run to start the server.

  5. Direct your browser to http://localhost:5000.

  6. If you want some test data to play with, run make load_demo_data (do this while the server is running!).

  7. Change users by navigating to http://localhost:5000/become_user/<#> where # is a number from 1-5. Different users have different privileges and can see more or less of the demo data.


If you have trouble getting the demo data try doing

make db_clear && make db_init && make run

and then, from a different window, do make load_demo_data.

If you are using WSL, be sure everything (the git repository and all dependencies) are on the Linux machine and not the Windows side, as connection oddities can otherwise cause several errors.

Mac users may need to disable Airplay Receiver in System Preferences to free up port 5000 and avoid a 403 Forbidden error.

Additional Configuration

The configuration file lives in config.yaml, and is meant to be self-documenting. Please modify as you see fit.

Before deploying this on a public server change app:secret-key to a unique value.

If you want to use a different configuration file, you may launch any of the SkyPortal commands with the FLAGS environment variable set:

FLAGS="--config=myconfig.yaml" make run


By default, the server allows anyone to log in (even if it presents a login screen). If you are running a public-facing instance of SkyPortal, you should enable multi-user login by adding Google credentials to the server:auth section of the configuration file and setting debug_login to False.

Creating an administrative user

By default, no user has permission to perform system administration. You can give this and other permissions to an existing user by running the following from your terminal in the skyportal directory:

PYTHONPATH=. python tools/ --username="<username>" --role="<role>"

The role argument is optional, and defaults to Super admin.

You may also list all users and their roles:

PYTHONPATH=. python tools/ --list

Test data

By default, SkyPortal contains no data. You can ingest some sample light curves by running

make load_demo_data

This also adds as an administrator.

Deploying secure HTTP / SSL certificate

When running a public server, you will likely want to deploy an SSL certificate (i.e., serve https://your.url instead of http://your.url). Certificates can be obtained for free from services such as Let’s Encrypt (

certbot is software for helping you obtain a new SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt. To do so, it first verifies that your server is running (without SSL) at the specified domain.

Start SkyPortal using make run.

Then, install certbot: pip install certbot-nginx

Ask certbot to verify the service and retrieve a new certificate: sudo certbot certonly –standalone –preferred-challenges http -d http://your.url or similar if using https sudo certbot certonly –standalone –preferred-challenges https -d https://your.url

To renew and retrieve the certificate, do: sudo certbot renew

Next, modify the nginx configuration in baselayer/services/nginx/nginx.conf.template to use the newly generated certificate, placing it at the top of the server section:

server {
  listen [::]:443 ssl ipv6only=on;
  listen 443 ssl;
  ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/{YOUR_DOMAIN_HERE}/fullchain.pem;
  ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/{YOUR_DOMAIN_HERE}/privkey.pem;
  include /etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-nginx.conf;
  ssl_dhparam /etc/letsencrypt/ssl-dhparams.pem;


Finally, stop the app and run it again using make run.