Last updated: 6 February 2009
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I recently upgraded my Carina Software Voyager 3.75 to Voyager 4.5. This review is an update to my earlier review.
Voyager is one of several sky simulation programs available for Mac OS X and Windows. I installed from the Mac OS X DVD. There is about 5GB worth of data installed, including the following:
155,000,000 stars (with accurate positions, magnititudes, and physical properties)
1,600,000 Deep Sky Objects
Planets and their moons
1,100 man-made satellites and spacecraft
Many of the objects display digitized photographs as you zoom in. The stars are displayed in realistic colors and brightnesses.
In version 3 there was an option to not install all the data files and have the application access them from the CD-ROM. In version 4 that is no longer an option; all the data files have to be installed on your hard disk. Once everything was installed I launched the application and immediately tried to update the data and application (there was a 4.5.2 update available) using the built-in auto update feature (Internet connection required). The first download failed and that stopped all the rest from even trying. Odd. I deselected the others and was able to update to 4.5.2. I then went back and tried to download the data updates; it worked this time. So perhaps that was something that was fixed in 4.5.2.
I set up my preferences and added my location. (Surprisingly, there was no mention of using my Voyager III startup file.) I saved my location as the startup location. I liked to have Voyager III start up showing the sky at the current time. So I set Voyager 4.5 to do the same. I unchecked the option to save the chart time so that Voyager would start up using my computer clock time. However, this didn't work as I expected. When launched (in Mac OS 10.5.5) the sky chart initially appeared with the correct time (11:37 MST, for example) but then immediately the time switched to display the sky at 04:37 MST. It was as though LMT was being set to UT. I did have my time zone set correctly (-7 hours) for Arizona. When I clicked "Now" in the Time panel, both LMT and UT display the correct current time. This would seem to be a bug in 4.5.2. I contacted Carina Software about this; they asked to see my startup file, which I sent to them. The developer determined that I had found a bug. (In software development circles I'm rather famous for being able to find obscure bugs!)
This minor startup problem aside, I've been using Voyager 4.5 successfully. Here is how I have Voyager set up on my 17" (1900x1200 screen) on my MacBook Pro:
In its most basic use you can show how the night (or day) sky will look on any date and time (past, present, or future) from any location (on the Earth). You can configure Voyager to display all or selected asteriods, comets, and/or satellites (artificial). I have it set to show the International Space Station. You can extensively configure how Voyager displays the sky chart; it is easy to set it the way you like. You can search for any object or select from common objects from the menu. You can even center the chart on a special coordinate (Equatorial, Alt/Az, Ecliptic, Galactic):
You can configure how Voyager 4.5 should display stars. I like the spectral type filter option. Here is the Star Display dialog box:
As in prior versions, you can set the magnitude limits for display of stars (limit 18.0) and separately for DSOs (limit ~20.0) based on the view angle. Here you can see the setting I use for stars:
Voyager can be used to set up video simulations showing movement of planets, asteroids, and more. As a training and learning tool, Voyager has many valuable capabilities that can be effectively used.
Voyager can also be a research tool. I used Yoyager to determine the faintest magnitude on some Nikon D70 DSLR astrophotographs that I took using my 8" LX200-ACF during my visit to Oracle Observatory on 25-27 October 2008. This is a 1 minute exposure at ISO 1600 of the Double Cluster in Perseus:
And here is a view of the same area in Voyager 4.5:
The star circled (in the lower cluster) is Magnitude +12.83. Pretty good for a 1 minute exposure.
Here is a 2 minute exposure at ISO 1600 of M57, the RIng Nebula:
And the corresponding view in Voyager:
The star circled (just below M57, which is visible in the original image) is Magnitude 16.84.
One other research tool use is to show how the sky would look from other locations NOT on the Earth. You can select to be on or near bodies in the Solar System or in interstellar space. My wife wanted to see how the sky would appear from Mr. Spock's home planet of Vulcan (Epsilon Eridani). So I set up Voyager to display that.
You can print the displayed star chart for use at the telescope. You can also create observing lists of objects and then print the list for use at the telescope. Voyager can GOTO those objects if you have your computer connected to a telescope.
As did Voyager III, Voyager 4.5 can control most GOTO telescopes, including the ETX/AutoStar. You will need the appropriate serial cable (and a USB-serial adapter if your computer does not have a RS-232 serial port). I had tested this in version 3 but haven't yet tested controlling my telescopes with version 4.5. I will update this review after I test the telescope control.
Version 4.5 comes in two versions: DVD ($200) and CD ($150). The CD version does not have the Guide Star Catalog 2.3 and Principal Galaxy Catalog. The upgrade DVD is $45 from version 4, $80 from version III, and $120 from version II. You can install it on two computers, Mac OS X and/or Windows XP/Vista. The full specifications are available on Carina's web site.
Voyager does all that most users will ever want in a computer planetarium/simulation program. I'm glad I finally upgraded from version 3 to version 4. If you are a Voyager fan and are still using an older version, and your computer meets the requirements for version 4, I recommend that you upgrade. You will enjoy all the new features and displays.
[24 Nov 08]
In the review above I mentioned a possible bug in the Auto Update feature in version 4.5. This was indeed corrected in version 4.5.2. I also mentioned a bug in the Startup Settings; this will be fixed in version 4.5.3 (not yet released).
[06 Feb 09]
Here are a couple of photos of the Carina Software booth and Team at the MacWorld Expo San Francisco, January 2009. Note the ETX front and center in their booth!
Go back to the ETX Home Page.