Re: Astronomy Software


Well, just purchased Skytools3, and it's on its way. I had been thinking of buying for a long time, deferring numerous times for other astro purchases. It has probably given me a couple more months with an inferior Astro Chair, LOL.

I really appreciated your quick astro software tour, Kevin. It cinched the deal for me. Since the last meeting I've read a lot of stuff on the Skytools website and downloaded the manual. It is definitely what I'm looking for...

1) First and foremost, a planner. Unfortunately, my trips to dark sites are too few and far between. I want to use my time as efficient as possible. SkyTools will give me a list of objects and the best times to view. So, if I happen to get into a heated side discussion about the best double in Orion (it happens), when I'm done I can go right to the objects I wanted to see that are best placed for viewing. I'm guessing it will make backyard sessions more productive and also make working for the different AL pins a snap.

2) Charting. I use Pocket Sky Atlas at the eyepiece, but for some toughies you can't beat a 1-4 deg FOV chart with stars down to mag 12 or 13. I have used Cartes du Ciel for this with great success, but it does have it's limitations (although you can't beat the price :). I wanted a flexible charting tool that could help me make these charts and print them for use at the scope.

3) Logging: This is my weakest area, I'm hoping ST3 will motivate me to get better.

On top of that, ST3 looks like it will keep me posted about the types of events that I enjoy viewing, like planetary conjunctions, asteroid & lunar occultations, comets, Jupiter moon events, etc.

These are the main reasons I bought it. Maybe in a couple months I'll share how well it met/surpassed my expectations.

If you don't have the money for an expensive s/w tool, I'll second Ted's comments on the free software. Stellarium and Cartes du Ciel have served me well. I'd also recommend the Virtual Lunar Atlas if you're into observing Luna (I am!). There's a bit of a learning curve w/ CdC, but I became an expert on a recent rainy Saturday, so it can't be that hard.

--- In, "Ted Forte" <twforte@...> wrote:

Oh yes. Thanks for reminding us about Guide, Roy, I've been meaning to
order it. Several of my on-line astro-geek friends use it. I guess what I
didn't get around to saying last time is that the "pretty" planetarium
programs are fun for virtual touring, but all of the glitter is just excess
baggage when you are out at the scope. Simple, accurate, clear and fast
with a bare minimum of bells and whistles is what is called for there.


From: [] On
Behalf Of Roy Diffrient
Sent: Saturday, February 04, 2012 1:46 PM
Subject: [backbayastro] Re: Astronomy Software

My $0.02: Every program I've tried has limitations, funnies, interface
quirks and omissions, but also some excellent capabilities. Megastar is
user-friendly, but doesn't include all the NGC objects: Try finding the Cats
Paw nebula, NGC 6334 - - Not listed
in Megastar 5, even though the program isophotes clearly show the beautiful
nebula. Speaking of isophotes (on-screen shadings showing the shape of
large nebulae), SkyTools doesn't seem to have any. It also does not have
all the IC objects or all the Sharpless nebulae. When I first got SkyTools
3, I asked the developer about Sh2-308
(, a Wolf-Rayet bubble that was not
included (still isn't). He told me that there were many objects with
discrepancies in position listings, etc. between databases. Even though the
objects did exist, those objects usually did not make it into SkyTools.

Despite limitations, I still use those two programs, but I also use Guide
($40, A new version, Guide 9, has just been
released. Guide has great isophotes, imports images from DSS on-line, and
has a relatively complete database. It's also great at occultations, and
includes the capability for users to post additional databases, so that
other users can download them. Many are available. So far limitations are
that Guide has no logging (SkyTools is good for that), and the new PN-G
designations for planetary nebulae are not included (the older PK
designations are included). But for groups with tight budgets, note that
Guide allows unlimited copying -- Buy once, copy and distribute freely, and
the user manual is available on-line.


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