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Solar Weather Browser - STD SWIM - STD Aurora Monitor - Swarm - VRML Simulator

PlanetWarp - Orbiter - BOINC - SETI@home - SETI Spy - Satellite Tracker - EarthBrowser

TheSky Pocket Ed - Palm Pilot Tools - Aberrator - IntelliWave - Quick Fringe - Visual Spectrum

Ephemeris Tools - Astronomy Lab - Météore - Eclipse Map - Moonrise - AstroMeeus

MessMara - NBody 3D - CCD - LX 200 remote control panel

HF Propagation programs - Ham, DSP and satellite tracking software

2003, OMA


Space Weather Browser

Solar Weather Browser, SWB for short is a tool developed by the Belgian Royal Observatory to visualize solar images in combination with contextual information that you can surimposed on the image.

For example, you can display and H-alpha image and the position of CME as well as a Stoneyhurst diagram showing a grid of 10°. The image databank is not fully complete as archives are not available before 1996 (radioheliographs). SOHO (EIT) images are available from 1999, white-light GONG and X-images from GOES 12 from 2005.

SWB requires an active Internet connexion. It uns on Windows 98, NT, 2000, XP and Mac OS X.

Its main advantage is to be a freeware. But if you are an advanced amateur, you will probably be soon or late frustrated by the lack of other data. Therefore, I suggest you to buy STD SWIM (see below).

(c) 2003, Spacewarn, $150


Edited by the Solar terrestrial Dispatch (Spacewarn), STD SWIM is a tool, a kind of report and imagebank developed to help you monitoring various events, from the space weather to the weather forecast in near real-time You can either use the default layout or customize it, adding or suppressing tabs, images and reports according to your needs. For example, you can add data related to the weather, the sea temperature, earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, even bulletins published as text reports, as long as you can provide a valid URL (http or ftp only) to an external website where images are saved under a generic name (not in a date format or a random filename varying day after day). Globally STD SWIM can access to more than 200 Internet resources ! A must for all users interested in images or status reports in the fields of astronomy, meteorology, geophysics, and more. The program allows you to update all images or a specific one.

STD SWIM replaces advantageously STD Aurora Monitor and SWARM reviewed below as it provides much more information and filtering options.

STD SWIM retrieves, displays, animates (over several days) or prints space weather data, forecasts, warnings and summary reports for any date (as long as data are available and downloaded). It plots and archives a large assortment of real-time data extracted from Internet, from the amount of solar x-rays, the solar wind speed, proton flux, IMF values, geomagnetic components, SSN, Dst, A and K indices, and any additional custom image. It displays images and graphs recorded by various POES satellites, SOHO, DMSP, ACE, TIROS, GOES, METEOSAT, etc. For fans of radiocommunications, you can display geomagnetospheric-related data like the auroral oval, ionograms, MUF, attenuation of signals in the D-layer, without to forget plots of tens of parameters.

STD SWIM supports up to 10 simultaneous download of Internet images, a parameter that you can customize. While fetching or downloading, the access to some processes or features is disable.

Last bust not least, STD SWIM comes with a printable 79-page color manual (9.8 MB PDF).

Minus sides, most features (buttons, etc) are not associated to an online help or a comment. Hence, sometimes, you have some difficulties to find the button requested by the system to stop a process (e.g. animations) and have either to guess its location or to read the manual. 

To prevent errors or a file corruption, Spacewarn suggests to not exceed about 20 images per tab. Also, you cannot download old data entering an old date (it is only valid for some plots) and in this context it doesn't constitute in a database that you can query on any date or subject. 

At last, for an unknown reason, I experimented a corruption of my layouts (default.lay loaded at startup as well as my customized ones) containing all my customization, tabs and links. I had no other choice than restarting from a blank layout, and re-encoding all entries. I lost several hours as there is no option to save all encoded URL in a text file easy to retrieve or to convert. Spacewarn took close to 5 days to give me a feedback but without solution excepting to save next time the layout several times ! Due to this problem and these limitations, I removed one star from my appreciation.

STD SWIM is available through the Internet or on CD-ROM and runs on Windows NT, 2000 and XP. It requires an active Internet connexion. It runs from any Pentium II or higher processor with 128 MB RAM and SVGA display.

Since 2006 the all set of software and courses provided by STD (SWIM, AURORA, SWARM, PROLAB-PRO2 and 600 pages of course) are available in a single bundle at $120 or 95 € only (full price is over $600). Check this offer.

(c) 2002, Spacewarn, $75

STD Aurora Monitor

This is a semi-professional tool dedicated to advanced amateurs. Its purpose is to help you to forecast and ensure a monitoring of auroral activity in near-realtime.

Before using the program, you must download f'rom Spacewarn web site data from satellites and observatories world-wide which include images from SOHO spacecraft, Yohkoh, Big Bear Solar Obs, Sacramento Peak, Mauna Loa and a few others and various weather satellites.

Once downloaded the program can displays graphs, animates solar imagery and satellite weather pictures of all continents and for many regions of the world in near-realtime at your mouse clic.

STD Aurora Monitor includes four auroral acticity models in order to predict with accuracy potential auroral activity for all latitudes. Plots of solar x-rays, space environment and solar wind conditions can be displayed in order to evaluate the intensity and power of the particules which will reach the Earth some hours later.

Ergonomy side, three "traffic lights" triggers display the current status of  the auroral activity. So you can't miss it ! You can also receive audible warning if you want when your computer receives a sighting from the network, the latest forecast or warning. A glossary also explains the technical terms used in this activity.

You can customize up to 50 simultaneous sessions to display for example animation of an auroral activity in one window and plot the solar activity in another one. A very convenient tool which requests a fast CPU (>350 MHz) and some memory (64-128 MB) if you want to display over 4 windows.

At last STD Aurora Monitor allows you to upload your personal sightings to the Auroral Activity Observation Network, a global database supported by both amateurs and professionnals world-wide. Observations are update each 2 minutes. You can also participate in a Discussion Forum through this application and share with others your sightings.

Only counterpoint, this version 3.0 is created to take part of a permanent Internet connexion. The next release under test will accept to connect to the Internet as necessary, what is much more appreciate by the amateurs... Note however that today this version is advantageously replaced by STD SWIM reviewed above.

STD Aurora Monitor is available on CD-ROM and runs on Windows 32-bit, including Windows 2000. It requires an active Internet connexion. It runs best on Pentium III processor with 64 MB RAM and SVGA display.

(c) 1999, Spacewarn, $300

STD Swarm

Swarm is a professional tool dedicated to advanced amateurs. Its purpose is to help you monitoring the Sun activity in all the spectrum, from white light to gamma-rays in quasi real-time ! That will allow you to organize your astronomical activity consequently by forecasting flares, prominences, auroral activities, ionospheric perturbations and more.

Before using the program, you must download from Spacewarn data from satellites and observatories world-wide which include SOHO and Yohkoh spacecrafts, Big Bear Solar Observatory and Sacramento Peak famous for their stunning pictures.

Data can be displayed, even superimposed, for any date back in time. You can select to show sunspots regions, disk and limb activity, photospheric magnetic fields, coronal holes, coronal emissions and surface features. Plots include sunspot indexes and solar flux at various fequencies, proton energy distribution, x-ray distribution.

Swarm is also able to alert you quasi in realtime in case of solar flare alert and geomagnetic storm from minor to severe, including A and K-Index for geomagnetic storms which are updated once every hour. It provides also data plot of 27 magnetic observatories in US.

Thanks to its quasi-realtime display you can be informed up to one hour before the impact of an interplanetary disturbance with the Earth. Alerts monitored include solar winds, the interplanetary magnetic field, the geosynchronous satellite magnetopause crossing, the sudden magnetic impulse, radio noise bursts are various very high frequencies including Type II and IV radio bursts with a full coverage of energetic protons, electrons and x-rays flux.

Plots are also numerous and can each be display in a separate window : the solar wind velocity, the solar wind density, its thermal temperature, the solar wind impact time with the Earth and many derived data related to auroral activity. Most plots and graphs can be printed out, fetch, and archived on a daily, weekly or monthly base.

The most complete version of Swarm comes on CD-ROM and includes a Master database with 400 MB of data back to 1996. 

Now at version 2.0, Swarm requests a modem/ADSL and a connexion to the Internet. It runs on Windows 32-bit platforms, and runs best on Pentium III processor with at least 64 MB RAM and SVGA display.

To not confuse with Swarm (Space Weather Aeronomical Response Model) from the University of Michigan and some other software of the same name.

Swarm is no longer officially supported. It has been superceded by SWIM (and included in the special 2006 bundle from STD) but it still has a few features that are not available in this latter, such as maps of solar regions, etc

(c) 2005, Mike Tyrrell

Licence, 15£


This small application allows you to "spherize" digitally an orthogonal projection in equidistant azimutal or perspective view. In short, if you take a picture of a Moon crater located on the limb like Bailly displayed at left, using this program you can rectify it so that it looks circular instead of elliptical, as you where directly overhead.

The program requires Microsoft .NET framework v1.1. It was tested successfully on Windows XP and 2000 and should work on the others Windows 32-bit platforms.

The same result can be achieved manually projecting your image on a globe.

(c) 2003, Mike Tyrrell


VRML Simulator

This application simulates in 3D the appearance of the International Space Station ISS (or any other satellite) as you can seen it from any point on Earth at a particular time. The maths behind the code was developed by Phil Masding.

The program starts running the page "iss_main.htm". Once the user has specified its local parameters (location, time, orbital elements of the satellite, etc), the program generates a VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) code which may be viewed in an internet browser with a suitable VRML client.

The current version supports the ISS P1 truss, VRML time controls, picture matching, the Moon, rotating Earth among other features.

The program requires Internet Explorer, the 3-element TLE file (here is a copy valid from 22 May 2005) and a suitable VRML plug-in compatible with your OS, such as Cosmo Player.


Martin Schweiger, Ph.D.



There are few flight simulator of this realism on the market. Orbiter has been developed by Martin Schweiger from Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering at University College of London. Martin is not a pilot nor a cosmonaut but a true guru in simulation. Orbiter is not an arcade game like other Space commander like. This is a space flight simulator using realistic physical models for spacecraft dynamics, atmospheric effects and planetary motion. A must for all fan of astronautics and future space explorators.

Orbiter uses sophisticated instruments and navigation computers to travel between spaceports on planet surfaces and orbital stations throughout the solar system driving cargos, space shuttles or prototypes. 

Orbiter is also amazing by both the rendering of images and its technical sophistication. Ergonomic and highly configurable it allows you to modify existing objects as well as to add new spacecrafts, orbital stations, surface bases or to construct a new planetary system from scratch. 

To make the most of Orbiter, the user has to understand the basic of physics, flight and space navigation. Hopefully the author provides all documentation you need to complete a mission to ISS or a space station orbiting a remote planet.

But to succeed in doing all the cheklist requested to complete a mission, calculating the transfer orbit, counterbalance yaw or pitch and docking the you will neeed a lot of experience and knowledges. At the end you will be exciting by your expertise in that field. 

The program runs on Windows 32-bit OS and requests at least a 133 MHz CPU with Direct3D 7.0 or higher, and DirectX compatible 3D graphics accelerator card to render planetaries landscapes at low resolution. To use this highest resolution of 8192x4096 pixels Orbiter requests an AGP 3D graphics accelerator card with at least 32MB of VRAM, 128 MB RAM, a CPU over 233 MHz, the hardware supporting DXT1 texture compression and optionaly an accurate DirectX compatible joystick. That means that any desktop PC will not run this program but any multimedia PC should support those recommendations.

2003-2013, Berkeley University



In 2003, David Anderson and his team at Berkeley University developed BOINC, that stands for "Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Networking Computing", a tool similar to IBM's World Community Grid.

BOINC is a multiprocessor environment working in time-sharing; it is able to manage several projects simultaneously, sharing the CPU time of your computer between several applications if necessary. Variables are associated with each working unit to calculate with accuracy the time assigned to each project.

The new SETI@home client (see below) takes advantage of the flexibility of BOINC, this interface becoming the kernel to manage "grid applications" as they are called, distributed projects. Currently, 139 applications are supported by BOINC among which :

- SETI@home: SETI project

- Einstein@home: search data in the framework of LIGO (gravitational waves)

- LHC@home: search to design the CERN's LHC particle accelerator

- long term climatology study

- Predictor@home: solving biomedical problems

BOINC requests an access to Internet and a computer running Windows, MacOS, Unix and soon many other OS.

French speaking readers can also get an overview of this project by reading the special pages that I have written about this project. Join us, this is a true scientific adventure!

SETI@home v7.0.64 (2011)

SETI@home v5.13 (2006)

SETI@home v3.08 (2003)

SETI@home v2.00 (2001)

1999-2013, Berkeley U., Freeware


The famous SETI@home project is a scientific research program availble since March 15, 1999. Through this client application, you can join the SETI community and participate in the SETI scientific quest.

SETI@home is distributed free of charge by the University of Berkeley. Its algorythms search for strikes, gaussian, pulses and triplets in raw stellar data that your system downloads automatically from Berkeley. 

Heavier than the first version, this one is however more complete, faster and more secure, in a word better than previous releases.

The processing speed depends on your ressources but we can say that using only the screensaver CPU time on a 500 MHz CPU, it requires 17 hours to process a work unit of around 400 KB, 7 hours only to process the same module on a 1.2 GHz computer and only 2.5 hours on a 3 GHz system !

SETI@home requests an access to Internet and a computer running Windows, MacOS, Unix and many other OS. For stats, explanations and the latest updates of the application do contact the Berkeley website, your only reference in that matter.

The original SETI@home client (v3.08) was unable to analyze data coming from another observatory than Arecibo and in a specific angular band (see this sky map) or to use other instruments than the one currently programmed.

So, since 2003 the client interface has been replaced by the BOINC interface reviewed above, more flexible and more powerful.

The BOINC version of SETI@home is set up so that the signal bandwidth or its sensitivity level (2 or 8 bits, etc) is no more hardcoded in the application. Instead, it is integrated in the flow of information provided with each working unit. So, a working unit or credit coming from Arecibo will tell the program that is was recorded with a sensitivity spread on 2 bits and that the beamwidth is 12 secondes. A credit coming from Parkes or any other observatory and recorded with the highest resolution will include other parameters at which the new BOINC client of SETI@home will adjust.

In practice, if you have already subscribed to SETI@home, your account will simply be transfered to BOINC. You will receive a new account ID by email that you will have to type in BOINC Preferences (Menu "Settings", Attach to projet...). The number of working unit processed under BOINC will simply be reinitiated to 0 without affecting the original counter.

If you want to change your settings, do not search for your profile on your local computer. It is stored on Berkeley server. Select "Your account" on the menu. 

Now at version 7, SETI@home it is used by over 1.4 millions users (2013) but only 10% of them are active

It takes advantage of the OpenGL language and displays a 3D interface that you can enlarge or aims at different directions thanks to the mouse. The GUI is customisable and surely deserve your attention !

French speaking readers can also get an overview of this project by reading the special pages that I wrote about this project.


Roelof J. Engelbrecht


Written in Delphi, this is a small utility of some 380 KB. Installed once SETI@home is running (it searches for its .sah processing units), SETI Spy gives you the status of your working unit, the performance of your system (speed, rate, efficiency, etc), the signals discovered (spikes, gaussians, pulses, triplets), etc. SETI Spy is linked to the Team Lambchop website which analyses SETI results and provides online statistics.

Now at version 3.0.2, this utility is only available for Windows 95/98/ME/NT and 2000. 

This program is no more supported as Roelof passed away in 2004.

(c) 1999-2003

Brent Boshart, $26

Satellite Tracker

This small utility is dedicated to drive a Meade LX200 or any compatible Celestron Ultima, NexStar GPS or GT telescope on satellites. It requires a custom cable (serial) which configuration is included in the user manual. 

Stand-alone it requires only TLE files from NASA or NORAD to calculate satellite positions using the SGP4/SDP4 algorithm. You can set various filters like the minimum elevation, altitude, direction and even edit an observation log book.The display includes a map and several other options (predict pass, viewing plan, etc). 

Now at version 2.0.6, the program runs all Windows 32-bit platforms but Me. Note that this software is freeware up to v1.1.6b.

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