JeffPo's Astronomy Software Page
Last update: 01/11/06
Today's amateur astronomer relies more and more on computer software as a tool. Some telescopes can even be run entirely from a lap top computer. With CCD cameras, the observer can actually sit inside a cozy room to "observe". While I don't have this kind of sophistication in my equipment, I do use astronomy software to keep up with the sky and what is going on. I use it to predict eclipse times, moon phases, rise and set times of objects, etc. My biggest use of astronomy software is as a star chart at the eyepiece.
NOTE: From time to time, the links to the various web pages listed below will change. That means the link I provide may not work. If that happens, just do a search for the software on the Internet and I'm sure you'll find it somewhere. And don't forget to let me know of any broken links I may have. Thanks.
My most used astronomy software package is from Software Bisque (click this link to visit their web site) and is called The Sky. The Level IV version contains the Hubble Guide Star catalog along with a few others. With it I can plan my whole observing session. It also prints great star charts. It was with one of these star charts that I found Pluto. You can input your own objects and pictures, new comets in the sky, and just about anything else you can imagine. I highly recommend this software. Here's a screen shot (version 4.0):
I use The Sky as an "at the eyepiece" star chart. As I search for fainter and fainter objects, often times it is not immediately visible when I look through the eyepiece. Many galaxies for example, lurk right at the edge of being detected with my telescope, and even then I'm using averted vision. With this software, I can represent the particular view, even with regards to the field of view of the eyepiece or directional orientation. I match up the star field I see in the eyepiece with the one I see in the software. Then I know exactly where the object should be in my field of view.
In cruising the Internet, I've also come across a few shareware programs that I highly recommend. The first is called Satellites of Saturn and is written by Dan Bruton. You can visit his web site at: http://astro.phy.sfasu.edu. This neat little program will help you find eight of Saturn's moons and will let you see what Saturn looks like at any time. It's a DOS program, but it still works great. Here's a screen shot:
You can download it from Dan's web page, the Internet, or you can click on the link below to download the copy I have:
The next program I use was also written by Dan Bruton and it is called Galsat (which stands for Galilean Satellites). This program is similar to the Saturn program and will also help you know when shadow transits and other moon events will happen. It's also a DOS program. Here's a screen shot:
You can download it from Dan's web page (see above link), the Internet, or you can click on the link below to download the copy I have:
Another program that you might find useful is JupSat95, by Gary Nugent. This Windows software will display Jupiter and the four main moons. It will also display a graph plotting the moons for a month, similar to the ones you see in Sky & Telescope or Astronomy magazines. A feature I really like is that it will display the transit times for the Great Red Spot. Here's a screen shot:
You can download JupSat95 from the following link: http://indigo.ie/~gnugent/dnso/js_setup.exe
A good freeware program for the planet Mars is called Mars Previewer II. This Windows software was written by Leandro Rios. It displays Mars and all the major features to be seen. It's great for helping to identify those sometimes subtle dark areas. Here's a screen shot:
It seems that there are a few copies of the Mars Previewer II zip file floating around that have a computer virus in them. You can get a clean, virus-free copy from my website:
Since I've been trying to get into astrophotography, I also decided to write a program to help me calculate exposure times. Using the formulas and advice from Michael Covington's excellent book, Astrophotography for the Amateur, I created a simple Windows program that will help me calculate exposure times for taking pictures of the Moon and planets. It will give you exposure times for various equipment setups and also has a dialog for calculating telescope specifications. I call it StarShot.
NOTE: I wrote this program back in the days before the proliferation of digital cameras. With the cheap point and shoot digital cameras now available, I don't expect too many people to be using film. With a digital camera, you can adjust your image exposures immediately, as you see fit. So I would expect that my program is somewhat obsolete now. However, I do still use it for doing calculations and conversions with regards to optical configurations.
Here's a screen shot of the Common Telescope Calculations dialog:
You can download my StarShot program by clicking on the link below. This program also needs the file VBRUN300.DLL, which is included in the .ZIP file.
* Back to home page *