Last updated: 21 July 2009

Welcome to the Software Reviews page.

Solscape X 2.0
by John Schilling
Donationware ($20)
Mac OS X

This application for Mac OS X grabs current images from various sources on the Net. By clicking the buttons at the top of the window, you will get a list of sources and images. You can download and display images of the Sun, Earth, Aurora info, and more. Yes, you could visit each of the web sites where these images are available but Solscape does all that for you. You can save the images to your hard disk. One really nice feature is that as you resize the main window, the image resizes as well. You can configure it to download images at startup and/or download specific images every X minutes. If you have a full-time connection to the Internet, you can configure it and just keep it open all the time. If, like me, you have a Coronado PST (or other solar viewing capabilities) or you want to track Aurora visibility, check out this application. I think you will like it. It is available via the MacUpdate web site.

screen shot

Subject:	PFD Systems Home Page
Sent:	Friday, June 7, 2002 0:51:22
From: (Donald McClelland)
Just thought your reader's might be interested in this Palm Software.  I
love it.  It has over 600 NGC and Messier objects including Alan Dyer's
110 best NGC objects from the Royal Canadian Astronomer's Society list
among others.  It has very helpful and elaborate filters and sorting
ability for just about every need. It also has over 350 double stars.
But the most impressive thing is the price. Cost me $12 to download!
It's called "Star Party." Check it out on the link.

Subject:	Review of 2Sky for the Palm OS
Sent:	Tuesday, March 26, 2002 6:49:20
From: (Duane Frybarger)
2SKY 2.3
Zerpec, Inc. (; $29.95.  $69.75 with
all available plug-ins.  30 day free trial.

System requirements: Palm OS 2.0.5+, 210K to 350K RAM (2834K with all
available plug-ins) and HotSync Manager 3.0+ (Windows) or 2.0+ (Mac).

Amateur astronomers with Palm devices currently have several great
choices of software available to them. Among the contenders, one stands
out above the rest – 2Sky by Kevin Polk. With its intuitive,
feature-rich interface and extensive stellar and deep sky databases,
2Sky offers everything an observer needs under the stars.

The basic installation of 2Sky includes stars to magnitude six and over
500 deep sky objects. 2Sky with all available plug-ins can display the
entire NGC/IC catalog and stars to magnitude 9.5.  2Sky offers nine
fully customizable fields-of-view, including field size, magnitude limit
of stars and deep sky objects displayed, eyepiece or finder circles and
optics orientation to simulate the view in any instrument.

2Sky also offers over 100 viewing locations (in alphabetical order) with
the option of adding your own sites.  Any view can be saved including
location, date and time, direction, field of view and zoom settings.
2Sky also features goto RA/Dec, Tap ID for any object (names, magnitude,
type and distance of stars, angular diameter of DSOs, RA/Dec, Alt/AZ and
rise/transit/set times), customizable hardware button assignments,
animations, constellation lore (tap any constellation name), a choice of
palettes and a comprehensive glossary of astronomical terms.  2Sky uses
the silk-screen search button built into the Palm’s graffiti area to
find objects by name (e.g. Vega, Mars, M1) and will even show the size
and orientation of brighter galaxies in a close-up zoom! Future versions
will interface with NexStar, Meade LX-200/Autostar and Sky Commander and
will include comets and asteroids.  Online help is extensive with even
more documentation available on the web site and emailed questions are
answered in a matter of hours. And to top it off, 2Sky is lightening
quick, re-drawing any screen in under two seconds.

The big question on most astronomers’ minds will be “How does it work in
the field?”  In a word – superbly!  I love my SA2000 but I find it
difficult to work with under the stars.  It is big and bulky and I need
to correctly orient the star chart to match my telrad or 10x50 finder
and then use a dim red flashlight to find my object on the chart and
then go back and forth between the chart table and my finders. With
2Sky, my star chart is in my hand!  (A neutral density filter preserves
my night vision).

I have always had trouble locating M81/82, especially under less than
pristine skies.  My last time out at a local site with a limiting
magnitude of about 5.0 and M81/82 about 40 degrees above the horizon, I
found this pair of galaxies in less than 15 seconds!  Even a scope with
goto capabilities will not be much quicker. I’ve had similar success
with other hard-to-find objects and I have added new objects to my
observing log using 2Sky.

A full installation of 2Sky does require a substantial investment in
dollars and footprint especially when compared to the other main
contenders in Palm Astronomy programs.  However, for me it’s no contest.
2Sky gives me what I need to find those faint fuzzies. I give it Two
Palms Up!

Duane Frybarger
The Deep Sky Database

Subject:	ScopeDriver review
Sent:	Sunday, March 3, 2002 7:30:19
From: (Kate / Tom)
Tycho Brahe's immense contribution to astronomy took place long before
the personal computer and even before the telescope. But if he were
around today he'd probably use a laptop and a 'scope with a goto
controller. One good reason is the new shareware ScopeDriver software
just released by Steve Hutson at American Dream Partnership and
available from

Designed for Macintosh in Classic and OS X versions, ScopeDriver adds a
"find" capability to the LX-200 and AutoStar "goto" function, the
ability to quickly create new objects in a personal database, automatic
synchronization with your computer's clock, and the most useable
observing list builder and log writer available.

Your 'scope is controlled from a clean, easy to use on-screen main panel
with time and position readouts, current object, telescope position,
field information, alignment mode, reticle state, and more. Click to
focus. Click to find. Click to goto. Click to slew.

Other functions for building observing lists and compiling logs are only
a keystroke away. If your handwriting and eyes are as bad as mine, the
capability to keep a tidy log with the help of your computer will be a
compelling reason to spend the few dollars for ScopeDriver. A night
vision mode is even included to prevent ruining your dark adaptation
looking at a bright computer screen.

ScopeDriver doesn't include a sky map... yet (Starry Night, are you
listening?), and it doesn't include a $100-$200 price tag either. You
can use it's full functionality free for 30 days. Then for just the $35
shareware fee you can have an easy to use, very useful program with
excellent customer support.

I know first hand about the quality of their customer support. I'm a
dunce, and configured my iBook wrong so my LX-90 just sat there and
stared at one spot in the sky. But they patiently helped me work through
the problem, and even e-mailed a special version of ScopeDriver with
built in diagnostics to help find the exact point where my system was
losing its mind. With it I pin-pointed the problem, slapped myself in
the forehead, and spent the evening happily hopping all over the sky.

In this era you probably won't lose your nose in a duel as Tycho did,
but you can loose your shirt on poor quality software. Not with
ScopeDriver from Try it, you'll like it.

Tom Harnish

(Tom flies vintage open cockpit biplanes for a living from Carlsbad,
California. No fly-by-night outfit, evenings are available to share his
star-gazing passion with his first passion and partner, Kate.)
Mike here: I have also been using ScopeDriver and will add my comments at some future date.
Subject:	 MegaStar and the ETX-125
Sent:	Tuesday, January 15, 2002 12:43:36
From: (Blais Klucznik)
I've seen quite a number of comments on the various Planetary programs
that are available to the general public, both commercial and freeware,
and have not run across one article yet that mentions the program
MegaStar which is available from WillBell Publishing.  (No financial

I purchased this program about 8-months ago.  It is a very decent
Planetarium program where, when the skies here make it impossible to use
the telescope, one can learn about the sky above any given location.
Thus it is not only a tutor but allows you to plan what you are going to
try to look at when the weather clears.

I originally downloaded the Planetarium program Carte du Ciel and must
say it is a very decent software package.  I actually preferred it over
MegaStar originally.  Then as I spent more time with MegaStar I became
more familiar with its vast number of user options and its almost
countless catalogs.  As a result Carte du Ciel is no longer on this
computer.  Still one must admire Patrick Chevalley for his effort in
releasing, free of charge, this very nice Carte du Ciel.

Due to the fact that we are currently faced with continuous cloudy
weather I ran some tests to see if MegaStar would actually control my
ETX125 using the MegaStar's LX200 option.  To my surprise the ETX125
followed and slewed to each object I commanded via MegaStar.

After doing the best I could to do an ETX alignment indoors, using some
surveying tools, I commanded the ETX125, via MegaStar, to GOTO the star
MENKALINAN in the constellation AURIGA which, at this time, was just
above the northeastern horizon.  I then switched the MegaStar view to
the narrowest view available so I would be able to view minor
differences between the telescope coordinates and the MegaStar
coordinates.  I then commanded the ETX125 to show its position on
MegaStar using the LX200 display option.  Sure enough the ETX125 cursor
was right on the star MENKALINAN using the MegaStar view as just

I then turned the PC power to OFF and let the ETX125 track the star with
no input from the PC.  After about 2-1/2 hours I turned the PC back to
ON and brought up MegaStar.  Once again I commanded the LX200 to "Show
Coordinates".  I was extremely surprised that the ETX125's cursor was
well within 5 seconds of being dead on the star MENKALINAN.  I'll have
to try this exercise outside, that is, when the skies clear and a real
polar alignment can be performed.

With so little being said about this software program I just thought
that I would express my complete satisfaction and enjoyment of using
this 'unsung' hero.  As mentioned above it seems the more I learn of its
many features, databases and ease of use the more I enjoy it.

Thanks for staying(?) with me group.  I hope you folks have clearer
skies in your neck of the metropolises.

Blais Klucznik
From: (Clay Sherrod)
Blais -
very interesting, indeed!  And how do we access this MegaStar program? 
Do you have a URL?  This really sounds like a very nifty planetarium
program that should be recommended for the ETX scopes....AND for the NEW
LX 200's (and LX 90/497 A.S.) since they will be essentially using the
Autostar logic.

Thanks for the fine report.

Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatory
Hello Dr. Clay,

I am not trying to convince anyone to purchase the MegaStar program
because, simply, it costs $139 for the package.  I simply thought I'd
voice my pleasure with it.  You can download a demo version from
WillBell and give it a try although the demo version is pretty naked as
compared to the CD version.  Also a 92 page 5x7 printed User's Manual is
included with the CD purchase.  WillBell also keeps the program
up-to-date with 'free-of-charge updates.  In any case the site's URL is:

One feature I didn't mention was the ease by which you can update the
comet and asteroid databases from Harvard.  It even has the capability
to convert the downloaded data to the AutoStar format.

By the way, I purchase almost all my astronomical textbooks and
references from these folks.  The books are top-class and there is no
charge for shipping.  Their shipping containers will drive one insane as
one tries to remove the well-packaged contents from the shipping

I would like to THANK YOU  Dr. Clay for the marvelous work you have done
with the 3-part GOTO ORION tutorial.  It really is a pleasure to read
your Constellation GOTO's.  The coordinates work in MegaStar and more
importantly in real-life, that is, out there in the cold or freezing
temperatures.  Yet there is no substitute for the real thing, freezing
or not.

Blais Klucznik

Subject:	Unix software
Sent:	Sunday, January 6, 2002 10:42:23
Linux/FreeBSD software:

Xplns   :
Xephem: (can control 
Kstars : (kde desktop)

digital universe (3d flytroughs)

openuniverse  :
celestia          :

hope you will print them om your website.
Many astronomers work with Unix so i think these links will be usefull


Subject:	Review of SkyMap Pro 8.0
Sent:	Wednesday, November 28, 2001 20:24:47
From: (John Collins)
SkyMap Pro Version 8 is a fine astronomy program for use with the ETX
and other telescopes. The trial copy of version 8.0 is available by
download (9.7 MB) from Also available at this site are
links to comet and satellite orbit data updates as well as an ETX driver
so that your mouse can control the motion of your telescope.

By looking at the real time sky chart, one can see all the objects in a
particular section of the sky. You can choose which objects are to
appear on the chart: deep space objects, comets, satellite pass
predictions, etc. There are a variety of options for the appearance of
constellations, star identifiers and so forth that will appear on the
sky chart. You also have your choice of gridlines: alt/az, RA/dec,
ecliptic, galactic, etc.

The program accuracy is awesome.

For instance,  the other night when I looked at Jupiter, the brighter
moons were exactly where SkyMap Pro predicted.

One of my astronomy magazines is featuring the upcoming lunar
occultations of Saturn predicted for Nov 30/01 (7:49 PM) and Dec 28/01
(4:01 AM) for my location. I checked those dates and times in SkyMap
Pro, zoomed into that area of the sky and there was Saturn, right on the
edge of the Moon! I then did a fast forward to watch the whole process.

After hooking my ETX125 up to my computer via the 505 cable, I was able
to move the telescope to different comets, stars and deep space objects
without having to scroll through a long list on the Autostar screen. The
pointing location of the 'scope appeared on the screen as a moving
flashing cross.

The full version of SkyMap Pro costs $99 and comes on a CDROM packed
with a vastly larger database of stars than in the trial version, photos
of deep space objects, and many other features.

I have tried other astronomy programs, but I keep coming back to SkyMap

John Collins

Subject:	StarCalc 5.6, a professional astronomy planetarium & 
Sent:	Sunday, November 25, 2001 5:44:54
From: (Scott)
Here are tips on using StarCalc:

First thing to do is set it to your time zone/location or enter your
exact lat-long coordinates. Then the display will show the current sky
-- blue background during the day and black at night.

You can include or exclude the dimmer stars by using the "stars
magnitude" button at the bottom to uncluttered the view. You can toggle
the constellation outlines and names and deep sky objects (other
galaxies) the same way if you want. You can also exclude our solar
system's planets, but that's usually part of what you'll be able to see
at night.

Then on the left, there are time buttons so you can advance or rewind
the sky a few hours, or thousands of years. You can return to "now" at
the click of another button.

The one thing people may have trouble with is looking at the star map,
and then going outside to apply the map to the real sky. For that, I
usually prefer a horizon-style map that shows a relatively flat horizon
at the bottom of the picture and shows only a small section of the sky
in a specific direction, such as east.

The circular full-sky map can be confusing, especially for the novice,
even though it's technically more accurate. However, with a
horizon-style view that's just facing east (for instance), you can
simply go outside and look east to find the stars and other objects seen
in the map. In other words, you are looking at fewer stars or objects in
a smaller area, so it's easier to pick out individual ones.

Most planetarium software programs, whether free or purchased, offer
both the horizon-view and the full-sky view. But, for some reason, I can
only find the full-sky view in StarCalc.

Folks can limit the confusion in StarCalc by using the following

Zoom in on the section of the sky you want to view. If you want to look
east, enlarge that portion.

Adjust the magnitudes of stars and objects that you want to show. If you
want to see only the few brightest stars, choose a lower number
magnitude -- for instance, mag 2 instead of mag 5. The brighter the star
or object, the lower the magnitude number.

Turn off the names, grids, or other information that you're not
currently using. You won't see them in the actual sky, anyway. The
information is important to learn, but it can be distracting when you
just want to see what the sky looks like; so only turn it on when you're
actually looking for the info.

Directions on the sky map will seem to be backward. If north and south
are in the usual places, east and west will be exchanged. Conversely, if
east and west are normal, north and south will be exchanged. This effect
occurs because we live in a three-dimensional world. When you look at
the ground, you're looking down; but if you look at the sky, you're
looking up, and your perspective changes.

The best way to understand this is to lie on the ground face down, with
your head pointing north. Your right arm will point east and your left
arm will point west. Now turn over, face up, head still pointing north.
Your right arm now points west and your left arm now points east. The
star map will do exactly the same thing, since it is facing up.

Find the best magnitude settings

Another problem a lot of people may have, especially if they live in
light-polluted areas, is that the number of stars shown on the map may
not be the same as the eye can see in the actual sky. Again, the
magnitude will need to be adjusted in the software so that the view will
more closely resemble the local sky conditions.

If only the brightest stars are visible in the sky, choose magnitude 1,
2, or 3 in the software.

The unaided human eye is said to be able to see up to magnitude 6 in the
best sky conditions. However, my six-inch telescope has been able to
show stars and objects around magnitude 12 on very dark, clear nights.
So for my scope, I would use a very high magnitude number and zoom in as
close as possible to the small section of sky I'm looking at.

Always select the software setting that will closely match your viewing
conditions and methods.

here is the link for the download:


Subject:	astronomy software review
Sent:	Friday, June 15, 2001 10:47:41
From: (Andrew Harmsworth)
I have a review of ORRERY at:

It's rather a large review, so you may just like to link to it, rather
than include the whole thing?  Let me know.

Platform is the unusual Acorn RISC OS, which is widely used in the UK.


A P Harmsworth, Physics Dept, The Leys School, Cambridge, CB2 2AD         Direct Tel. 01223 508 933
Work better. Use RISC OS on your computer.

Subject:	Astronomy Software..
Sent:	Monday, June 11, 2001 6:30:48
From: (Matthew F. Reyes)
It seems to me that you may have missed an excellent program called
Hallo Northern Sky.  It is an extremely concise, easy to use, and very
FREE piece of software that you may find is also the best one out there.

Go to this website for further information:

I've used Han Kleijn's software now for many years for my own personal
interest and in public demonstrations here at the University of Florida.
Mr. Kleijn is an excellent programmer and does personally support his
own work; write him, he's accessible too! I think even if it doesn't
automatically become your first preference, it surely does deserve a
spot in your review forum. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have...

Take care!

Mike here: Haven't missed it; it has been linked on the Astronomy Links page as "HNSKY" for a long time but no one had reviewed it until now.
Subject:	Epoch 2000sk review
Sent:	Monday, May 7, 2001 07:00:24
From: (John Hanover)
I was fortunate enough to stumble into Natural Wonders during their
"going out of business" sale and purchased the Epoch 2000sk-CD software
at a greatly reduced price.  I think the list price is  $179.00.  I
include some attachments giving a representative screen shot and  a
printed map.  I have been working with it for some time now and offer
this brief review for ETX users:

Epoch 2000 sk-CD is a Windows 95/98/2000 program which also operates
well under Softwindows 95 and Virtual PC on the MAC.  I have tried it on
both platforms and see little difference in performance between them. 
The program can display up to 19 million stars with the Hubble Guide
Stars enabled.  To enhance performance, the program displays the guide
stars only in the region ( about 10 degrees) representing the telescope
and finder scope fields. The large number of stars displayed allows a
beautiflly detailed simulation of deep sky objects.  More nebulous
objects are rendered using simple color-coded geometric shapes which
nicely define the general size of the object. First, some general

1.  Epoch 2000 is not a "standard" planetarium software  package.  There
is no attempt to create a realistic horizon or to simulate light and
dark skies at sunset.  This software is really designed for use with a particular a LX200 telescope!  In this regard it is
quite LX200-specific.  The good news for ETX users it that virtually all
of the commands work with the ETX-autostar combination.

2. The program has NO DOCUMENTATION other than the embedded help files. 
I spent some minutes searching for a printed manual in the box and in
the crystal case to no avail.  On the other hand, I was able to easily
use all of the features of the program without any great difficulty
owing to the usefullness of the help file.

3.  Since I chose an ETX 125 as my telescope, portability is obviously
important to me.  So I always asked the question. " why would anybody
drag a laptop out to control the ETX when the autostar already does
that?" Well, now I know!  Epoch 2000 has a feature called "autotrack"
which follows the scope and as it slews and gives a realistic view of
what to expect in the eyepiece.  I find this very useful for hunting
down objects near the brink of invisibility.  The software will also
allow you to pick an object and slew to that object without intervention
by the autostar. Autostar tours are great with Epoch 2000.  As the
autostar directs the scope to an object, Epoch follows it and outputs a
field nearly identical to the one in the eyepiece.  If your object is
obscured by a tree or streetlight, you still get a feeling for the
object by looking at the simulation.  Detailed information about the
object is also available just by clicking.  The Telescope and finder
views are completely customizable to match any eyepiece.   In addition,
the night-vision mode is really completely red and dim, for preserving
your night vision.  I have begun to use the "observers log" feature
which is available for each object. Clicking on the object brings up a
window with the RA and DEC already entered.  The notes are added at this
point and a drawing or photo can be inserted.  The program also tracks
planets, has a rudimentary animation feature and a moon
calculator....standard stuff.  Interestingly  (and somewhat
disappointingly) there is no calculator for Planetary moons.  They are
simply not pictured.  The phases of the inner planets are.

4. The only problem I have seen controlling the ETX is with certain
tours which use the mode key on the autostar heavily, the communications
are disrupted.  This is easily remedied by restarting the protocol... no
big deal and no lost time.  This seems to happen only when the mode key
is held down for a protracted period.

In summary, I like Epoch 2000sk CD.  It is wonderfully simple; it does
not try to do everything.  It does one thing very well- simulating
telescopic views of the night sky.  I have seen other software (The Sky,
Starry Night, etc.) and they also seem quite good.  However, I find the
interface on Epoch 2000 simple to use and almost transparent for the ETX
or LX200 user. I'd be happy to answer ETX users questions about the

Epoch 2000sk
Epoch 2000sk

SkyTools Observation Planning Software

Subject:	 SkyTools 1.5 Review
Sent:	Thursday, December 28, 2000 13:38:42
From: (Dave Ranck)
Thanks for your excellent, useful website! Here is a quick collection of
thoughts about SkyTools Observation Planning Software:

SkyTools by CapellaSoft ( is an observation planning
and logging program. It works a bit differently from other software
programs in common use such as SkyMap Pro.The main interface for the
program centers around the concept of observing lists - categorized
lists of objects that can be filtered and sorted. The main sections of
the program are:

Observation Planner: Observing Lists
Observation Planner: Events & Ephemerides
Interactive Charts
Observing Log

I purchased SkyTools for 2 main reasons: strong support for observation
logging and the innovative Observation Planners. The Observing list (see
below) can be created from powerful database searches, importing lists
designed by others or by adding objects one at a time from other points
in the program. For example, you can copy an object from one list to
another or enter it into an observing list from the object's description
pane. Once you have created a list, you can filter it by showing only
certain types of objects; by only showing objects above 2 airmass (30
deg. alt.); by showing only objects visible in full darkness; by the
time the objects are visible; by magnitude and much more. This is where
this program really shines. It is quite simple to create list and then
sort objects by optimum viewing time. This makes observation planning a

The list is visible on the main screen along with the NightBar, which
graphically shows the hours of darkness. The Rise / Set time and
altitudes of the Sun, Moon and the selected object are dsiplayed with
dashed lines on the NightBar. You can restrict the list to a set of
start and end times by simply dragging 2 vertical bars to the desired
times on the NightBar. The list automatically updates with your new
times. An icon next ot each object quickly shows the altitude of the
object at optimum viewing time and the darkness level of the sky
(including the effects of moonlight!).

The Observing log is a pleasure to use. You can enter data for any
object and at a later date retrieve all entires for that object. If an
object has a log entry associated with it, a log icon will show on the
observing list next to the object. You can sort on the icon, moving all
unlogged object to the top of the list (or to the bottom).

The interactive charts are optimized for printing. My favorite is the
Custom Telescope Finder Chart. If you have entered info about your scope
and eyepiece collection, you can view and print a 3 view finder chart.
This chart contains a naked eye view, a finder scope view and an
eyepiece view. The finder scope and eyepiece views accuately reflect the
field of view and orientation for your scope. You can print finder
charts for several objects at once, making getting ready for a night's
observing quick and easy.

What's missing? Well, I suspect that many of what I consider to be
missing features will be addressed by Vers. 2.0 later this year. The
charts are really intended for printing not for browsing on the
computer. The interface is awkward for moving around a map. There is no
telescope control feature. There is no real-time update of the maps.

Conclusion: All in all, SkyTools is a great program. I still need
another real-time map program, such as SkyMap, but I find the
observation planning features of SkyTools to be a great asset.

Dave Ranck
SkyTools SkyTools SkyTools

TheSky (Pocket Edition)

Subject:	 TheSky and Ipaq
Sent:	Saturday, December 23, 2000 12:34:26
Just a quick note here.  I have TheSky installed on a COMPAQ Ipaq pocket
PC (model 3630) connected to a ETX125EC through the Autostar, and so far
it works fine,  easy to use and quite accurate.  Having said that I have
found one problem area.  At the present time I don't know if its the
'TheSky' software or pocket PC.

If the Ipaq is connected and talking to the Autostar normally and teh
Ipaq internal timer turns it off after some time of un attention, then
it will never reconnect.  The error reported is ' Error 55' meaning that
the com port is being used by some other process.  It seems that one or
the other is not clearing the come port after a power down.  The only
fix is to reset the Ipaq, causing the program to get erased, then
reloading 'TheSky' back on.  The work around is to set the Ipaq to never
turn off while on batteries.  A second way is to 'terminate' the
connection when it ian't being used.

Also TheSky assumes that the 125 is in the polar mode and will not work
in the AZ/ALT mode.

Other than that, its rather convenient to have a good graphical display
in a small package.

Doug Loukota

From: (HAAKE Philippe)

To answer to Jim Davidson I will say that I bought a HP Jornada 548,,,, and The Pocket version of TheSky.....

49$...... Really nice small soft... sure not very big but it can control your autostar (I didn't did it until now, but you can do it) Is that not the future of the portability of the ETX????????? Pocket size PC...... When a pocket size Scope?????

I tell you all the telescope setup they have.. (I Know they are not all digital circles....
-Deep space Navigator
-NGC SkyVector
-NGC - Max
- sky wizard

that's all in the telescope setup.

A cross hair should appear at the telescope's position.
You have the sync possibility...
and slew to an object (with motor or by hands)

It should work the same way i use with the normal TheSky....

If you have any question...

Please let it me know...

10000 sao stars
110 messier
NGC 7840 obj
IC 5382 obj
comet 100
Minor planet 100

And you can download from the regular TheSky some of your
Ce Comets
Ce Minor Planets
Ce Preferences (fonts, lines, fill colors and symbols...

Very funny to have the sky in your pocket....
I think they have had a very good idea and some other soft will do the same...

Yes it is small and the screen is small also... but i sure it is really helpful...
Just thing a little, for your holidays.... around the globe... with a small ETX and your pocket PC with TheSky...

Have a nice Day.... Greetings from switzerland
Best Greetings From SWITZERLAND
ICQ 3128404

Voyager III (Mac OS)

Voyager III (formerly known as Voyager II v3.0)
Carina Software
$160 (upgrade from II = $40)

I picked up the first release of Carina's much anticipated, long delayed, Voyager III (formerly known as Voyager II v3.0) at the January 2000 MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. However, due to catching the flu and other factors, I was unable to do much with this version. Carina released a 3.0.2 updater on their web site within about a month of the 3.0 release. As a long time user of Voyager II v2.0 (confused yet on version numbers?) I really looked forward to getting to know and use the new version.

Voyager III is desktop planetarium software. It can chart the night skies, show planetary movements, phases of the moon and planets, and much more. It is currently available for Mac OS only although a Windows version is planned. It comes on a single CD-ROM and includes a 66 page manual. It will run on a 68040 Macintosh with System 7.5.3 (or newer) but at least a 120MHz Power Macintosh running Mac OS 8 (or newer) is recommended. It can run in 6MB but 10MB or more is better; minimal installation takes 12MB on your hard disk; full 30 MB. You'll want to display thousands or millions of colors. I used it on Mac OS 9 on a G4/450 Power Macintosh with millions of colors and a memory partition of 16MB.

I found some of the interface changes from II to III confusing at first but after working with the program for a few hours I got over it. Certainly, the interface and in fact the whole program is more colorful than prior versions. The sky brightness and color changes from day to dusk to night and more objects appear as it gets darker (see screen shots below). Cool.

Voyager III sunset
Sky at Dusk

Voyager III night
Sky at 9pm (2100 Hours)

VIII displays its sky chart in a window and you can have multiple windows open, each for different (or same) date/time/location. In its simplist mode you'll have one chart, your current location and whatever date/time you want to check on. You can create a "horizon" diagram, showing obstructions although I elected to not do this. The are many, many options of what objects to display, magnitude ranges, constellation lines, Milky Way, Twilight glow, and more. You can print charts, with many options available to control what and how the sky and details are printed. You can search for objects and VIII will display them for you. The CD-ROM is not required to be in the drive to run VIII but it contains astronomical photographs of many objects. You save your sky chart as a picture file or you can create a QuickTime movie showing animations of planet tracks, sky and sun movement, and more. The manual describes all this in sufficient detail for the new user. The last 15 pages are a basic introduction to Astronomy.

When I first launched what I thought was version 3.0.2, the program locked shortly after the splash screen disappeared. After I regained control, I then double-clicked on the Startup (settings) file and the program launched OK. It turned out that the update had left an application called "VIII PPC" and another one called "Voyager III". I had tried to launch the unupdated 3.0 version (which apparently didn't like the new default settings file). When I double-clicked the startup file it launched the proper Voyager III (version 3.0.2). I have deleted VIII PPC. I then proceeded to create my own settings file (to be used as the Startup). I positioned all the panels and the window where I wanted them to be, set up what objects I wanted displayed and how, set up my location information (latitude, longitude, altitude, name), and then saved the file as Startup. Unlike in previous versions, as the time was changed the sky chart orientation changed. In VIII the orientation is fixed and I like it that way.

When you click on an object an info panel appears with considerable information about the object, such as location, magnitude, size, distance, rise/set times, and more. As you zoom in on an object using either the zoom buttons or by dragging out a rectangle on the chart, you'll see some objects gain more details. For example, the moon becomes a photo on the chart, with the proper phase shown. As you zoom in on Jupiter you'll see bands and even its moons. Nice!

There are many other options that will appeal to various users. For example, you can see what the sky looks like from another planet. As you drag the hands on the clock, the sky position and colors change. Now Voyager III would only show the clouds currently overhead or even better, the clouds that will be overhead tomorrow night!

I found the program responsive (as expected on a G4/450). I experienced only one bug in 3.0.2: even though I had set the Time preferences to 24-hour and saved a new Startup file, VIII kept coming up displaying 12-hour time.

Carina has a companion program called "SkyPilot" which can control some telescopes. Their web site says there will be a new version 3.0 that will support the ETX-90EC. I hope to report on it when released.

Voyager II v2.0 was a much used program on my Mac to check upcoming visibilities. I used it to generate charts which I took to Australia in 1999. Now that Voyager III has been released I recommend all current VII owners upgrade to VIII. The wait, while long, has been rewarded with an outstanding new version.

9 Jan 05
I have finally had a chance to work with the recently released Mac OS X version of Voyager III. This version is essentially the same as prior versions but add two features: native Mac OS X support and GOTO telescope control. As you can see from the photos below, this version is a native Mac OS X. It has all the same features that I loved about the Classic versions. I am can now continue to be a happy Voyager III user!

Voyager III

Voyager III

Starry Night Backyard (Mac and PC)

From: (Jeremy Vecoli)

Sienna software has a new program- Starry Night Backyard. It has fewer bells & whistles than their pro version, but it has lots of nifty features. You can download a trial copy that is good for two weeks. If you like it, you can order a code to unlock it for unlimited use. MAC or PC- It runs much faster on my mac than RedShift3.

Jeremy Vecoli, Mpls, MN Love your site!

Subject:	Info-Genie plug-in to control the ETX from Starry Night
Sent:	Tuesday, March 13, 2001 10:54:07
From: (Stan Glaser)
There is a new version of the Info-Genie plug-in to control the
ETX-90EC/ETX-125EC from within the Starry Night software package.  This
version works; prior versions did not.

The plug-in itself has always been free. If you wish to use it as a
"database" (for example, to create an evening's worth of GOTO objects in
a list before actually going out in the field), then you have to pay a
license fee for the software. Otherwise, it appears to be freeware.

Go to:  [no longer available]

I believe the Astro-Physics GTO plug-in 2.5 for Starry Night DOES NOT
work But the LX200 version DOES work.

Stan Glaser

Pocket Star Chart (Palm OS)

Mike here: I decided to try out Pocket Star Chart (PSC) before making my final selection of a Palm OS astronomy package. I am also trying out Planetarium, reviewed below. PSC is essentially just that, a pocket-sized star chart. You enter your location/date/time (can save it) and PSC shows you the current sky. You can drag the image around with the stylus to see different portions of the sky. The chart makes nice use of grayscaling. It is fast (on my Palm Vx) but limited. There are minimal details of objects displayed and no other modes of the program. It does one thing and actually does it pretty well. If you are looking for just a sky chart program for your Palm OS handheld, this one is it. It sells for $17.95 from the Pocket Star Chart web site. Demo available on the web site.

Star Pilot (Palm OS)

From: (radowning)

As an avid reader of your site, I am pleased to have the opportunity to add to the information you compile. I am a user of a Palm V (currently) having migrated from a Palm III. On both platforms I use the following registered programs:

a.. Star Pilot from Star Pilot Tech. []
b.. Location Manager from Star Pilot Tech.
c.. Messier! from Star Pilot Tech.
d.. Planets! from Star Pilot Tech.
e.. J-Moons from Marvin Wilborne III
f.. Moon! from Marvin Wilborne III
g.. Sol!II from Marvin Wilborne III

Star Pilot is the main charting application, from which you can call or invoke all the others. The charting is very good, and has zoom and informational features. The Location Manager is required to keep a data base for either US or global locations (i.e.: latitude/longitude). Messier! allows for the compilation of a viewing list, essential for keeping track of what one is doing, when there is so much to see...Planets! gives you the ephemerides data for all the planets. J-Moons is a great application giving the relative positions of Jupiter's moons for any given observation time. Moon! and Sol!II both give you the expected information for the respective bodies.

In all, I would say that these applications have been of tremendous help in my observing sessions. From the quick verification of just what the heck I'm looking at, to planning an observing session, these are indispensible...

Well, that's my two-cents worth. Thanks for all your hard work.

Mike here: I just started using Star Pilot on my Palm Vx. This is an excellent suite of software, with lots of capabilities. Some of these are "hidden" in menus so be certain to check them out. I have had one consistent crash in J-Moons when trying to set my location (which in the unregistered version doesn't seem to pick it up from the Location Manager program). I'm still evaluating the software but so far I expect to register the full suite ($60). Individual pieces are available for as low as $10.

[3/6/00] I had been leaning towards purchasing Star Pilot for sometime but wanted to actually use it on a clear night and check out the J-Moons accuracy. Finally, the clouds and rains left Southern California for a few minutes and I was able to see stars and planets! I moved the ETX-90RA outside and aimed it at Jupiter. There were three moons easily visible; J-Moons placed them correctly. Nice. The night sky accurately matched the display in Star Pilot. The remaining software included with the full suite will be so useful at various times that I have elected to purchase it. Pocket Star Chart and Planetarium are both acceptable substitutes if you don't need all the features of Star Pilot, with Planetarium being more useful than Pocket Star Chart.

Subject:	 Star Pilot / J-Moons!
Sent:	Thursday, April 20, 2000 07:33:37
From: (M. Edward Wilborne III)
Just a quick note that I read your reviews of Star Pilot and J-Moons!
available on this page.

It's nice to see user support for these applications and I thank you for
making this resource available to the community of amateur astronomers.

The review mentions a problem with J-Moons! crashing when changing the
location.  That problem has been corrected in the J-Moons! v3.x release.
The program was originally written in CASL and in version 3.x we
converted the application to C for both speed considerations and to
integrate the Location Manager developed by Star Pilot into the
application (and correct the bug).

Thanks again, and if anyone has any questions about Star Pilot or the
software developed by myself, e-mails are always welcome.

Ed Wilborne
MEW3 Software

Planetarium (Palm OS)

Subject:	Planetarium 2.2 for Palm OS and a cuppla questions
Sent:	Monday, August 5, 2002 18:51:39
From: (Ted Landy)
Planetarium 2.2 for Palm OS

As an absolute beginner to this game I would like to add my experiences
with this excellent software.

I am new to astronomy and have had my ETX125 for about a month now .
Connecting it to my Palm M505 PDA and driving it with Planetarium has
made observation thoroughly enjoyable for me. I find that it is far
easier to know where in the sky and what I am looking at when I have a
sky map in sync with the telescope. Using the Autostar alone is good but
I found that the two line interface makes it harder to extract
information about objects. Particularly something that is not in the
vicinity of where the telescope is looking. Whereas with Planetarium you
simply tap on an object to find out what it is and press a button and
the scope slews to it.

I had been using Planetarium for about a year as a visual star guide in
my job flying aeroplanes before I bought my ETX. I do about 70% night
flying so I use it all the time. It is particularly suited to aircraft
use because it accepts Lat and Long and altitude thereby easily
adjusting for current location.. Shame my company wont let me take my
ETX flying with me, but I digress..

Connecting it to my Autostar #497 on the ETX 125 is a doddle. Only thing
extra I needed was the Austostar #505 Sync cable and a 6" Palm Universal
modem Cable. ($29 from Purple Data Cables Connect the
two cables and plug one end to the Autostar and the other to the Palm
handheld and I was in business.

As mentioned by others in this thread you have to do at least one GOTO
from the Autostar before Planetarium can drive the scope. Then you press
a Sync button and a bead appears in the Planetariums Sky View indicating
where the scope is looking. If you select another object and press SET
POSITION from Planetarium you see the scope bead move towards and
finally align with the selection cross hair in unison with the Slew (See
screen shot). You get the standard beep form the Autostar on completion.
Very neat and intuitive.

My only criticism is that the Autostar display does not keep up with
Planetarium commands and displays the last command which it initiated.
So if you do the first GOTO as required with the Auto Star to Antares
and then subsequently look at few other objects and end up with
Planetarium and the Scope looking at Lesath, the  Autostar will still
display Antares. It would be great if the Autostar kept up because you
could then also query it for whatever information it has on the object.
This also makes it difficult to fine Sync the ETX  because you have to
tell the Autostar to Object-Identify so it can catch up prior to holding
the Enter key for two seconds. This is only a minor frustration though.

Oh and another thing Planetarium is great for is finding True North for
initial alignment. I am in the Southern Hemisphere and do not have the
luxury of Polaris. Planetariums Compass View very accurately finds North
based on any celestial object.

You can also use this software to drive your ETX without a Palm device
at all. I have a copy of the free Palm OS emulator on my PC that I use
to develop some Pilot Logbook software. If you install Planetarium in it
you can plug the #505 cable directly into the COM port of the PC and it
drives the scope Just fine. (That is how I took the screen shots)

Subject:	Planetarium 2.0 for PalmOS and Autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, June 6, 2001 12:12:25
From: (John Gastineau)
| I'm following up my own message with a promise: I've ordered
| the necessary cable, and will test this combination 
| (Handspring Visor, Planetarium for PalmOS, and AutoStar on an 
| ETX-90) once the hardware is all in place. Report to follow. 

The hardware is in place, and so now my report.

A week or so ago I posted a note about using the PalmOS application
called Planetarium (and available here
with a Handspring Visor Deluxe and the EXT-90.

Here are particulars on the equipment I'm using:

#497 Autostar (the one with numeric keypad; different autostars come
with the 60 and 70mm scopes, as well as the DS series scopes) My
Autostar has version 2.2Eh on it.

A #505 Autostar cable (actually the one that comes from Scopetronix, but
that's the same as the Meade cable, I'm told). This cable runs from the
Autostar handbox to a DB-9 connector.

A DCH-M9 cable/converter from Markspace ( This cable
connects the #505 cable to the Visor. The cable has internal circuitry
that boosts the signals  from the Handspring to standard serial levels.
Apparently the Visor was designed as a USB device from the start, and a
simple serial cable attached to the Visor doesn't work with all devices.
So, a simple serial cradle for the visor might (or might not) work. Cost
was about $42 with shipping. Palm users can use the standard serial
cradle, but would have to add a null modem adapter. See the Planetarium
web site for cabling details.

No other adapters are needed.

Version 2.0.4 of Planetarium for Palm OS, including the LX200 plugin for
Planetarium. (more on this soon)

The Handspring Visor Deluxe is a Palm clone with 8MB memory, running
version 3.1H3M of the Palm OS (newer handsprings run newer versions of
the OS).

Check out the Planetarium web site for details on what that program will
do; in short it is a skymap program that will display maps for any
date/time/location within its date range. The included databases include
about 10000 stars and the Messier/Caldwell objects, among other things.
It also has other functions, such as a compass mode.

After assembling all the cabling, which takes moments, you must perform
a standard alignment of the scope and Autostar. Then you have the
autostar find one object--even just the one of the same alignment stars.

At this point the Planetarium program can take over. You can use the
program several ways. You can query the scope's position, which will
mark in the map where the scope is pointing. You can choose an object in
the program, and then command the scope to slew there. Finally, you can
do a synchronization of the program and the autostar.

The first time I tried it, I received lots of communications errors.
After emailing the author of Planetarium, I received a reply with some
troubleshooting steps, as well as a newer version of the scope plugin.
When I replaced the plugin in my Handspring's memory, all was well. The
version  of the plugin on the web site has now been updated. The support
I received from the author was remarkable for its courteous tone and

I have tested the system indoors only; it has been cloudy here for
weeks, it seems. I will report my first real test when I can.

John Gastineau

Subject:	 Planetarium 2.0 for Palm comparison review vs. Star Pilot
Sent:	Friday, December 22, 2000 22:41:45
From: (Richard A. Fowell)
After reading the Dec. 2000 Sky & Telescope review of Star Pilot, I sent
this comparison with Planetarium 2.0 to the reviewer. Perhaps you'd like
to post it on your reviews page.


( Letter to author of Sky & Telescope reviewer of Star Pilot)

I read your review of Star Pilot in the December 2000 Sky & Telescope
with interest.

I think you would greatly prefer Andreas Hofer's Planetarium 2.0 for the
Palm ( ) to Star Pilot. Planetarium is
faster, cheaper, more capable, compact, and better liked than Star
Pilot. I think your readers would prefer Planetarium, too. I hope that
you will try Planetarium, and write a review of it as well.


You mentioned that Star Pilot screen updates took up to 20 seconds (30
seconds if constellation lines were redrawn). The longest it took
Planetarium to plot  a comparable database of ~1600 stars (a full
hemisphere view down through magnitude 5.0, with constellation lines)
was 4 seconds on my 16MHz Palm III. Even with 9,000 stars, 504 objects,
and over 100 asteroids/comets, the slowest Planetarium redraw was 12
seconds (full hemisphere with constellation lines) on my Palm III, not
the 30 seconds that Star Pilot took for you with a much smaller


The basic Star Pilot package is $29.95. Planetarium is only $24.95 for
far more capability, including features comparable to the extra-cost
programs "Planets!" ($10) and "Sol II"($10) in the Star Pilot line of
products, as well as many things not available in any of the Star Pilot
line (e.g., 7500 more stars).


* More objects:

The standard Planetarium distribution includes a 9,000 star database,
(vs. 753 / 1480 stars for Star Pilot), and  220 non-stellar objects  (vs
110 for Star Pilot). Additionally, the Planetarium download page has a
free optional data file with over 1000 non-stellar objects. Futhermore,
besides the sun, moon, planets and stars, Planetarium models over 100
asteroids and comets. Users can add their own stars, objects, asteroids
and comets.

* Telescope control:

You commented that Star Pilot had no way to run a telescope. Planetarium
will drive a Meade LX200 or LX50.

* More data:

Both packages give the name, constellation, distance, right ascension,
declination and magnitude of stars. While Planetarium lacks Star Pilot's
stellar class/subclass field, it does tell the star designation in the
Yale, Beyer and Flamsteed systems, displays azimuth, elevation, hour
angle, ecliptic latitude and longitude, and computes rise, transit  and
set for the current and two following days.

Planetarium  also computes magnetic declination, dip and field strength
for any location, as well as time in local, UTC,  JD and LMST formats.

* Planetary data comparable to the $10 Star Pilot add-on, "Planets!"

Planetarium provides additional information on planets beyond that
provided for stars: angular size, distance, distance to sun, elongation,
Jupiter's moon arrangement, Saturn's ring size.   (The Star Pilot's 
add-on, "Planets! requires an extra $10 and 30Kb more to provide these
default Planetarium features).

* Sun/Moon information comparable to the $10 Star Pilot add-on, "Sol II"

Planetarium also includes  a sun/moon compass, the Sun and moon rise,
transit, set as well as day length, and twilight times (civil, nautical,
astronomical). You need to buy the Sol II add-on to do this with Star
Pilot. The Planetarium compass diaplay will show any Planetarium object
aziumuth and elevation graphically relative to true and magnetic north,
sun, moon, and all planets - I doubt the Sol II solar/lunar compass is
that capable.

* More display options:

The star view window can be targeted by searching for a star or
constellation name (like Star Pilot), by entering a right ascension and
declination, by entering an elevation and azimuth, by dragging on a view
window, centering the selected star, by clicking on rotation
aziumuth/elevation scroll buttons, or from a popup azimuth or elevation.
The star view window size can be set by a popup list of 10 preset
angular widths, and three customizable angular widths (from 1-180 deg in
1 deg increments).


The basic Star Pilot package takes 188Kb of Palm memory by itself. (The
"Planets" add-on adds 30Kb more, and "Sol II" 46.3 Kb more).

The Planetarium package takes 183K if you install the "small" star
database ( 1600 stars - more than the "large" Star Pilot database),
default object database (four times as many objects as in Star Pilot)
and comet/asteroid database (Star Pilot provides no comet/asteroid

So, the basic Planetarium is 5Kb smaller than Star Pilot, while
providing more stars, objects, as well as features that would swell Star
Pilot's size by 76.3K if provided by the "Planets" and "Sol II" plugins.


On the PalmGear site ( in the user feedback section for

Planetarium, there are 13 user reviews in the last 3 days, all rating
Planetarium "5 stars", including one user who said "I have finally
removed StarPilot from my Palm IIIc.".  In the user feedback section for
Star Pilot, there are only 3 reviews in over a year (since Dec. 10,
1999), and the two more recent ones rate Star Pilot 3 stars, and
basically say "it is nice, but Planetarium is nicer and less expensive".


Try Planetarium 2.0 - you'll like it! I hope you like it enough to write
another review for Sky and Telescope! Regards,

Richard A. Fowell (
Added later:
I wonder - since you are big on the Meade ETX - Planetarium will drive a
Meade LX/200 or LX/50 - should try to support the ETX? Or does the ETX
come with enough similar capability? Send him email if you think that
would be a good idea.
Mike here: The ETX Autostar does support some of the LX200 commands. So it would be neat to see it controlling an ETX.

From: (David Huyrn)

While this application does not interface with the Autostar, it is still a nice one to have. Its called Planetarium. Planetarium calculates the position of the Sun, the Moon, all the planets and 1600 of the brightest stars in the sky for any time and a any geographical position. There are two main displays. One is a star map and the other shows the azimuth and the altitude of an object on a compass-like scale. In addition, it will also calculate the rise, transit, and setting of the Sun, Moon and planets. Planetarium is shareware and can be registered for $19. I am in no way affiliated with this application or its author. I have found it useful and wanted to pass it along.

And of course, thanks for a great website!

David Huryn
Solutions Architect / DataChannel

Mike here: I decided to try out Planetarium. It is faster than Star Pilot but has less features. The "compass" view, showing the altitude and azimuth of the selected object, while initially confusing, is a nice feature that newcomers to Astronomy will appreciate. It has more features than Pocket Star Chart but less than Star Pilot. I'm continuing to evaluate all three and will report on my final decision but I'm still leaning towards the complete Star Pilot suite.

Subject:	Planetarium 2.0 for Palm
Sent:	Saturday, March 17, 2001 22:41:43
From: (Mike Hadey)
I was reading the Software Reviews on Mike's site and resonated with the
following comment:

>Mike here: The ETX Autostar does support some of the LX200 commands. So
it would be neat to see it [Planetarium] controlling an ETX.

Since Planetarium is free to try and the GPS and Telescope "plug-ins"
(uses LX 200 commands for ETX) are free. I decided to give it a try. 
Seem to work great. There seems to be a small discrepancy between the
calculated coordinates between Planetarium and Autostar, but not much. 
I used the palm to control the scope through the Autostar using the same
adapter cable that I use to interface my Garmin GPS to my Palm Vx. 
First I'd have the Palm direct the scope to an object, and then I would
use the "Object-Identify" function on the Autostar.  The results were
usually 0'0".  Yesterday I went out during the day, put the Megapod on
my scratch marks on the patio, did an "easy align" (hitting enter
immediately when asked to center alignment star since obviously couldn't
see them in the day time), and then used the Palm to point the scope at
the sun (unlike Autostar, Planetarium gladly shows you right were the
sun is).  I got really lucky on the fake alignment because the sun was
actually in the FOV without any additional tweaking!  I then dialed up
my "Sun Asteroid" in the Autostar and did a GOTO.  Also in the FOV
(other hemisphere of sun).  The GPS plug-in will read your coordinates
directly from the GPS to give you an accurate sky view.  I went ahead
and registered the software for $24.  Hard to go wrong for that price.

Mike H.

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