Last updated: 19 January 2002
This page is for user comments on Astronomy software for the PC, Macintosh, or Palm OS systems. Items that are more "review" oriented will be posted on the Astronomy Software Reviews page. If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or answers to questions posed here, e-mail them to me and I'll post them. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message. Thanks.

Subject:	Cartes du Ciel- SkyCharts
Sent:	Friday, January 18, 2002 6:02:04
From: (Philippe HAAKE)
Hello Mike,

I would like to say that the version 2.7 of Cartes du Ciel-SkyCharts is
ready to download at

SkyCharts is a FREEWARE made by Patrick Chevalley Member of the SAG
(Socit Astronomique de Genve Switzerland).

This really great soft has been translated in more than 20 languages....

And something very great for us is.... that you can pilot your etx. And
it works really nicely..

So the best way to make it simple is have a look at those pages, and
you'll love it..... I'm sure...

Thanks Patrick...

Best Greetings From SWITZERLAND
ICQ 3128404

Subject:	Another free Star program...
Sent:	Thursday, January 17, 2002 8:08:48
From: (Bryan Morris)
Its called Stellarium and is supposed to do "photo-realistic sky
generation".  You can get it free from here:

Subject:	And yet another free one, Celestia
From: (Bryan Morris)
You can get it here:

Bryan Morris
IT Dept.
OCB Reprographics
Mike here: They even have a Mac OS X version of Celestia.
Subject:	Starry Night on a Mac
Sent:	Tuesday, January 8, 2002 14:44:27
From: (Paul St. Amand)
To: (Bill Swartout)

I use Starry Night Pro on a Mac PowerBook G3 to control my ETX-125 with
very good results. I also use the Keyspan USB Twin Serial Adapter. To
get it working, try the following:

1. Make sure you have the latest keyspan drivers (
2. Make sure you have the latest plug-in from Robin Casady (ver. 2.5) 
3. Use port 2 on the keyspan device. (I have never had success on port 
4. Set port 2 to emulate a modem and, possibly, check the "non-modem
device" checkbox (I am not sure about this, writing from memory).
5. It isn't obvious, but when Starry Night is up and running and you
have the plug-in displayed, if you click on the C&G icon, you are taken
to a preferences dialog. In there, select the proper port.

It should work fine like this. If not, try other settings in the keyspan
advanced setup software.

Good luck!
Paul St. Amand

Subject:	Astronomy Software
Sent:	Tuesday, January 8, 2002 12:27:40
From: (Brian Straight)
I know you've "featured" several packages on your site, but have you
ever tried "Cartes du Ciel?"  It is a free package with downloadable
catalogs. It also drives Autostar scopes.  I used it for the first time
with my 125 the other night--it worked perfectly.

This is a beautiful and extremely sophisticated package.  And the price
is perfect!

Check it out, if you haven't already, at:

The new version is simply amazing.

All the best,

Mike here: Many people have written about it but I've not used it (no Mac version).

Subject:	re:   Astro s/w to control ETX-60 on a Macintosh?
Sent:	Saturday, January 5, 2002 11:10:02
From: (Richard Seymour)
As a completely wild guess:  The 506 accepts characters at a MUCH lower
rate than the 495/497 Autostars (70 characters per second .vs. 900).

9600 -baud-, yes... but the character processing rate is slower.

The Macintosh programs may not be taking that into account, 
(or, you could say: "The Macintosh is too fast".. happier?)
and both pushing updates faster than the 506/494 can handle,
and requesting feedback before the 506/494 is ready to deliver

The same symptoms can be seen with a 497 during satellite tracking
if the updates/feedback rate is pushed faster than one send/receive cycle 
per second... wild slews and incorrect positional reporting by the PC.
And older verions of the 497 firmware (pre-v2.1eK) -really- messed up.

have (slower) fun
From: (Bill Swartout)
Sounds plausible.  Both the Cassidy & Greene plugin and MPj Astro II
make it clear in their documentation that they were primarily designed
to work with the LX200.  So they are probably not designed to work with
the more modest processing capabilities of the 494/506.  Thanks for the
information.  When I get a little free time, I'm planning to contact the
developers of both packages to see what I can find out.
If you have satellite-tracking software available, those packages
frequently have a "throttle" to allow controlling the time between

For the planetarium software, if it were a WinTel PC, i'd suggest 
looking in the "registry" or the program's .ini files for a spot to
 control the update frequency.

Perhaps that's tweakable in the resource fork of your programs?

If you're running OS X, i'm told that Virtual PC runs -slower-
there than under v9... so that's additional fodder (maybe).

Actually: if you have -another- serial port available,
(or the control in the Mac... perhaps pipe the data through "tee",
a standard unix application which lets you grab a passing
datastream for local copying or screen-dumping)
perhaps you could capture one (or both) direction's datastream
to see what they're -really- saying...

good luck
And this:
Actually, under OS 9 and Virtual PC, using Starry Night and Astronomer's
Control Panel (both PC programs), the scope seems to work, both in
tracking and pointing. (I say "seems" because these have been indoor
tests).  The slowness of virtual PC could account for why it works,
since the data rate would be less likely to overwhelm the telescope. 
But one of the things I found with the mac software, was that even the
first command to slew the scope didn't work, and not on satellites, but
on slower moving things like stars.  Given that the first command
doesn't work it seems less likely that it is an update problem.  But it
could be that several commands are being issued just to slew the scope
to the first object and they are cascading on top of each other.   I'm
wondering if Astronomer's Control Panel senses the type of scope that is
connected and behaves differently if it is connected to a 494 than say a
497?  If ACP recognizes the 494 and accounts for its more limited
processing power, that could explain why it works and the other programs

Subject:	Astro s/w to control ETX-60 on a Macintosh?
Sent:	Tuesday, January 1, 2002 18:01:36
From: (Bill Swartout)
I recently received the #506 cable set for my ETX-60 scope.  Using
Virtual PC 3.0 on an iMac with a Keyspan USB-to-serial (USA-28)
convertor, I was able to get the ASU software to connect to my scope,
and also use the supplied PC-version of Starry Night and Astronomer's
Control Panel to both track the scope and slew it to selected objects.

Feeling adventurous, I then decided to see if I could use the Mac
version of Starry Night (also supplied with the 506 cable) to control
the scope.  I downloaded the latest version of Cassidy and Greene's
InfoGenie LX200 plugin; put that in the plugins folder for Starry Night,
and fired everything up.  The results I got were mixed.  The software
would follow the scope ok (except for an occasional communication
glitch) but it was impossible to slew to a selected object: either the
software would say it couldn't communicate with the scope, or it would
slew to some totally wrong part of the sky (interestingly scope tracking
still worked correctly even after that, correctly showing the scope
pointing to an unintended part of the sky...).

I then downloaded the MPj Astro II program that I saw mentioned on your
site, and got similar results --- the software seemed to track the
scope's position correctly, but it was not possible to point the scope
using the software.

Since I was able to get this all to work in emulation mode using Virtual
PC, I know that the ETX-60 can be controlled using software, but I'm
stuck as to how to do it with a Mac running native software.

I saw on your site that The Sky is supposed to be able to control ETX
scopes and runs on a Mac, but I'm reluctant to buy it unless it's going
to work.

So my question is: does anyone have experience using the The Sky with an
ETX-60 or is there any other Mac software that will work?

Thanks much and have a great new year!

Mike here: On my (rather extensive) list of things to do... I'll also see what I can find out at MacWorld Expo next week.

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