- CALCULATORS - IMAGING
Universe - TheSky - Starry Night Pro
Night Enthusiast - The Guide
- SkyCharts / Cartes du ciel
- Hallo Northern Sky - ExInEd
Sky - Celestia
- Virtual Moon Atlas - Dance
of the Planets - PRiSM - Nuit
- Deepsky - Alpha Centaure - The Earth Centered
Propagation programs - Ham radio programs
few years after the release of Redshift 3 that was warmly
recommended by all fans of astronomy, the publisher released v4 and
v5. They are both famous for their educational fonctions and the 3D rendering pushed to the maximum.
is first an educative tool coming with numerous movies and narrated tours
about astronomy and space exploration. Mainly dedicated to learn astronomy
to all curious of the sky, this cheap software will also amaze adults by its
performances, its numerous educatives menus and its 3D rendering features
pushed to the maximum.
Using many multimedia features
Redshift requires QuickTime you can download from the web. If the
release 3 ran with ease on a 100 MHz computer releases 4 and 5
request a more powerful system running over 200 MHz with a high resolution
As all good
educational software, Redshift includes many movies and narrated tours
about general astronomy, theories and space exploration. Java
applets about specific astronomical concepts are also available by
logging in to the publisher. As explained in the planetarium section
this also a sky simulator able to display 18 millions stars down to
magnitude 20, 15000 asteroids and 1500 comets without to forget 70,000 galaxies and 7000
nebulae. It comes with a sky diary, an updated dictionary, an extended photo
gallery and a documentation on-line with hyperlinks.
last, Redshift is able to reconstruct any trajectory for any body in
space and time between -500 ACN to 9999.
to its educative side, in my humble opinion this is a product that
has to be translated in foreign language to help all teenagers to
appreciate all pleasant aspect of astronomy.
is also a planetarium software. It
can display 18 millions stars up to mag.20 and compute all celestial
events between 4713 BC and 9999 AD, its only limitation.
displays stars according their spectral color,
including extracts from Hipparcos and Tycho databases, it provides
catalogs of variables stars, open clusters, QSOs, and BL Lacertae, some 15000
asteroids and 1500 comets without to forget 70000 galaxies from the PGC
catalog and 7000 nebulae - roughly 3 times more objects than the
of planets and the Moon have been revised over version 4 and recently moon
discovered around Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have been added. It
also provides new topographic features, including locations and landing
sites on most planets, display the solar corona, realistic images of
comets (with nuclei and tails), and meteor showers. Redhshift
can print high resolution sky charts and comes with a sky diary, an
new updated dictionary, an extended photo gallery and a documentation on-line
is now at version 5 and runs on all Windows 32-bit platforms equipped with a SVGA display. A demo
The two first screen dumps are extracted from v5, the two next
from v4. A French version is available to
Dings, 36 €
Dings developed this interesting product that displays with high accuracy all
celestial objects, including all SAO and PPM catalogs, the 18 millions
stars from the GSC catalog and 2 millions additional stars from Tycho 2. It includes a quite complete animation
module and a high resolution map of the moon surface allowing you to
search for a specific crater. There is however no picture associated to
this database. In the same idea, if galaxies are displayed as simple ellipses there are no pictures associated and no possibility to display
the outline of nebula but the Milky Way.
side, stars are all displayed in white without take in account their color
index, faint stars which magnitude limit is customizable have
to be displayed manually, pan in the sky requests to access a sub-menu
and the zoom is also complex to use.
side, settings in the Options menu are numerous up to include the
accuracy of the numeric integration (Newcomb or VSOP-method), the pixel
size and color of displayed objects, the animation step, the zoom factor
and even the horizon if you want to get an accurate simulation of your
local landscape. The View menu allow you to define the magnitude limit for
stars, DSO, asteroids and comets and the user-defined catalog. All these
parameters and a few others can be set by default.Virtual Sky ephemeris
are however limited in the past and future between 4712BC and 9999AD.
the interesting tools there is an animation module able to display the
evolution of various planetaries phenomena from the planetaries
heliocentric positions to the aspect of planetaries disks, Jupiter and
Saturn moon positions, the sky aspect from any planet, as well as
eclipses, the moon libration and the evolution of its crescent without to
forget the usually sky simulation, showing the planetaries movment along
program can load custom catalog in CSV format, create/load history and
save your settings for a future analysis. All screens can be printed out
in various zoom factor but are black and white. Virtual Sky is now at
version 4.2 and runs
on all Windows 32-bit platforms with SVGA display.
software is the result of the collaboration between Christian Legrand, a
passioned lunar observer, co-author of the guide "Découvrir
la Lune" published in French by Bordas and in German by Kosmos
under the title "Der
Kosmos Mondführer", and Patrick Chevalley, author of "Cartes
du Ciel / Sky Charts".
written in Delphi 6, Virtual Moon Atlas, AVL for short, was first
published in French but quickly translated in 17 foreign languages, most
european, including English, French, Russian and Chinese.
presents the big advantage to be a freeware. It is a must for all fans of
Moon exploration or amateur astronomers appreciating high
resolution pictures of the Moon.
side, AVL provides a huge pictural database thousands of pictures associated
with textures of the Moon surface prepared by JPL, JAXA and other space agencies
completed with a full description including physical
or geological data about the selected topics. In addition you can download
and install historical maps and pictures recorded from Pic-du-Midi and by
some advanced amateur astronomers.
takes advantage of accelerator graphic boards supporting OpenGL to display
lunar landscapes in 3D. This option can optionally be desactivated if your
computer does not support this technology but rather static images in 2D.
Among its interesting features, if you are connected to Internet AVL gives you
access to online databases on LPI
website and accepts custom pictures.
The view can be set in
various positions, natural with the north pole up or inverted and mirror
as seen through the eyepiece of a telescope. The light intensity, the
umbra and resolution can be adjusted as well as the density, color and
size of labels.
of closups depends on the source documents. By default you cannot
zoom on the surface as high as you want due to a loss of details. But you
can for example download and install the Chang'e pictures that allow you
to zoom in some area with a resolution up to 60 meters.
side, the OpenGL feature is not compatible with the Geological maps
but this last option looks more to a gadget than a true tool for the
engineer. However, AVL is an excellent product for the amateur who
wants to prepare a night session and maybe to prepare the
first steps of the future human exploration of the Moon...
can also be interfaced with a telescope (ASCOM interface, encoder, Meade
or Goto system) and track the moon on a specific site.
running on a recent and fast computer (Intel i7 at 3.5 GHz) with 16 GB of
RAM and 4 GB of VRAM on a NVidia GTX770 graphic card you can get "out
of memory" errors. For example, when you run multiples memory hungry
applications simultaneously like BOINC, MS Office and AVL, and zoom to the
maximum in additional catalogs or when selecting a single view with the
dynamic view, as many stressing conditions for the system. However such
circumstances are not common and the software looks quite stable in a
is now at version 6.1 and runs on all Windows 32-bit platforms up to Windows
8. It requires a computer running at 300 MHz minimum, and at least 16 MB of VRAM. The basic
package needs 200 MB of disk space and takes advantage of the Open GL to
display 3D features (if you have no OpenGL capabilities you 'll have to
install the "lighht" version). Additional pictural files
extracted from Lunar Orbiter, Apollo, Clementine and other Chang'e
missions add thousands of pictures and require more than 2.5 GB of additional disk space.
is really a wonderful simulation software all the more that it is a freeware.
is able to simulate the aspect of any object from the solar system
(planets, satellites, some asteroids, comets) including several stars and
asterisms from any location, from Earth or a remote planet or one of its satellites. The
program allows you to add labels, orbits, stars or galaxies to name some
features or to modify the pacing, the angle of view as well as the date
to simulate any celestial event from eclipses to in situ conjunctions,
Celestia is also a wonderful tutorial and didactic support to learn the
celestial mechanic and observe alien locations from any point of view.
last you can capture images or create movies.
Laurel provides also a forum on his website for fans of his product and various
planetaries textures at medium or high resolution that each can download
through this FTP
programmers, beside the binary package of 11 MB, you can also download the
source file (tar.gz). As for Windows version, for UNIX users the LIBPNG can also be used.
is now at version 1.3.2 and runs on all Windows 32-bit or MacOS X platforms with
SVGA display. If you want to use high resolution textures of planets, including Earth and
reflections on the ocean your computer will have
to use a graphic card with at least 16 MB of memory. The package provides
also a low resolution textures version for systems running only 4.5 MB of video
that NASA provides also a similar simulator online, although it is less
complete : Solar System Simulator.
Science Simulations, $50
of the Planets
application was released in 1994, and thus runs only under DOS. At that time it was the first amateur software
able to use rendering to display planets in high resolution when you
zoomed in, and real time animations taking into account the effect of
gravitation. Due to its quality the product is always available but it
looks today more like a "collector item" than a real plus to the
collection of the many performing simulators available on the place. But
it deserves your attention.
DoP enhanced some of its famous options as the Starship
perspective, the Earth and space viewing modes and the tracking mode on
target. It is completed by a huge database of comets, asteroids, stars and
DSO (see the ordering page on their web).
some of its performances you can see the Earth's axial direction precesses
or come back and forth in time searching for a peculiar celestial event.
DOP is also able to display in high resolution lunar occultation's and solar or lunar
eclipses. As all good product, it is also able to compute in a number of ways favorable apparitions
of comets and asteroids or minor planets solar transits.
this program should be incomplete if I didn't insist on the fact
this is a true orbital simulator, calculating the gravitational effects of the various bodies on one another and
moving them accordingly, a good way to see orbital resonances or to create
orbital experiments with hypothetical bodies.
last, update files are available from their web for recent (1997) comets,
asteroids and Kuiper objects. Current minor planets orbital elements
formatted for DoP can also be downloaded from IAU
Minor Planet Center.
development of this very useful program was stopped at version 2.71. It runs under DOS and successfully in a Windows 32-bit
DOS box. Currently there is no plan to porting it to Windows. Note
that NASA provides also a similar simulator online, although it is less
complete named Solar System Simulator.
by the way that ARC is specialized in planetary modeling and creates
globes of celestial bodies for exhibitions, etc.
Systems, US site, 150-330€
is a complete and powerful software, including in this new release a planetarium, an
image processing tool and a telescope driver, all this for a low budget.
It was selected by several professional observatories worldwide from
Pic-du-Midi to MMT and ESO.
than some other software listed on this web, settings are very useful; you
can for example select the stars size, the magnitude limit according the
zoom factor, the screen colors, or to include or not up to 10 stellar
catalogs (stars, variables, binaries, photometric, astrometric), 17 DSO
catalogs (NGC, IC, PGC, UGC, MGC, ESO, Abell, MRK, AM, Arp, Quasars, PK,
SH2, LDN, LBN, VDB, Barnard) including nebula isophots (Milky Way and main
nebulae). This huge database is completed by a huge catalog able to
display up to 90000 asteroids and hundreds of comets. Like others
powerful products, PRiSM is also able to download databases from IAU
Minor Planet Center or load pictures from BT-Atlas, Pises Atlas or
tools include the display of comets trajectory, dynamic 3D views, the
computation of angular separation, it displays the CCD or lens field,
animations, ephemeris and more.
second functionality of PRiSM is the image processing. It allows you to
preprocess or postprocess your digital or CCD pictures, including
filtering and trichromy functions with sub-pixel alignment, without to
forget the standard arithmetical and geometrical operations (addition,
substraction, enlargment, mosaic, planisphere, etc). PRiSM also includes
photometric and astrometric tools, supporting Tycho, USNO SA1/2 and A1/2
catalogs for calibration purposes.
but not least PRiSM can drive some CCD cameras (Audine, FIERA, Hisis,
KAF0400, SBIG, MX5, CookBook TC245, Webcams, etc) and telescopes interfaces
(Meade, Celestron, Sky Commander, NGC Max, Micro-Guider, Eureka,
Ouranos, NGC Max, and is compliant with Very Large Telescope TCS) including PEC
support, MCMT encoders and electrical focusers. Most of these systems
request a serial link
is now at version 10 and runs on all Windows platforms.
(c) 1998-2004, Distantsuns
by Mike Smithwith, this program can display all celestial and solar system objects in high
resolution with an idealistic rendering of planetaries surface details up
to 24-bit of color depth. In the same way as ARC's Dance of the Planets or
MARIS's RedShift it can simulate the aspect of the sky from any place on Earth or
in space, from Mercury to Pluto, including comets and asteroids. DS is
able to read external stellar catalogs on CD's or deep sky databases.
planetarium is realistic offering the possibility to display an horizon
and various grids (symbols, local or equatorial grid, the celestial
equator, the ecliptic, etc). Selecting the expert menu, these markers are
completed with other datas, mainly concerning stars (magnitude, b-v index,
radial velocity, binaries, variables, etc). However, the binary star
symbol is not differenciated from single stars.
Hover mode, like the "move to" option allows you to get close up
views of planets from any position in the solar system. It is also linked
to the navigator window. In both planetarium and hover mode you can accelerate
time, back and forth, lock your window on an object and search
for a peculiar event, a surface feature, conjunctions, etc.
program is pleasant to use despite its defaults somewhat irritating. Negative
side, DS is not very ergonomic and confused. Settings are numerous and
lost here and there in various submenus : File, Extra, Tools, Preferences,
Expert... The zoom factor for example is not iconized and is also
accessible using the aim function or the mouse, left-clicking and dragging
to the right or to the left to zoom in or zoom out but its sensitivity is
not very accurate. There are several ways to move the windows to the right
or left or enlarging an object, none of them being really convenient
(right-clicking and moving, navigator window, cardinal bouttons). These
are too many choices for such simple functions.
can automatically save your current settings. It prints ephemerides,
display a moon calendar, the list of meteors showers and eclipses. It can
create orbits for new comets and asteroids or create animations. It is
completed with megabytes of videos and images. However their excellent
rendering cause troubles with displays using more than 256 colors in
24-bit depth. It does not display surfaces rendering or is sometimes in
conflict with screensavers. This is a pity as it has been a very
interesting product for amateurs. Except this error, Distant Suns is now
at version 5.3 and runs on all Windows 32-bit
program written by Steven S.Tuma
and Dean Williams from DeepSky2000 is much improved over the very early versions. It
comes today with 413,000 DSO, the
19+ millions stars from the Hubble Guide Star Catalog, thousands images
and orbital elements for many asteroids and comets.
comes today with several additional tools, including an Observer planner
and spreadsheet, a logbook, star charts, data sheets about the solar
system, a night vision mode, and more.
also able to process raw images thanks to an image processing module and
includes a remote control panel to drive scopes on stars and planets
through a RS-232 port supporting ASCOM drivers (LX200, Ultima, Autostar,
program is also available on DVD and comes in this version with additional
bonus software like Pcoket Deepsky, Cartes Du Ciel, Virtual Moon Atlas,
Computer Sky Guide, Variable Star Software and a Fits image viewer.
last the provider sells two CDs of images (12777 NGC objects, 77000
galaxies, 131 globular clusters) and a data CD including all databases and
900 other images).
enough to be noted, this is a French product which can easily be uses by english-spoken
persons by installing foreign language plugins.
so-called multimedia functions, the only words its says are "connexion
established" at first run. More funny is its end generic... à la
Lucas film. But this is not for these special effects I tested the
The organization of the menus is particularly innovative
and the graphical display options very flexible, making the program to raise high inside its
category. The negative point is its slowness, particularly with all the design trimmings activated.
The planetarium graphical interface is pleasant to use with a drop-down and scrolling
menu at its left.
AlphaCentaure offers the classical representation of the celestial sphere; the situation
of the sky over the local horizon; elongations and heliocentric position of the planets
and an animation of the sunlit face of the Earth. It also provides an interface to record
provides main star catalogs, some on CDs (Master Star Catalogue v2,
Guide Star Catalogue v1.1, Tycho-2, Washington Double Star Catalogue,
General Catalogue of Variable Stars) and common DSO catalogs (NGC, IC, 3C,
4C, Uppsala, Abell Lynd, Catalogue of galaxies behind the Milky Way,
Catalogue of HII Regions,
Catalogue of principal Galaxies,
Globular Clusters in the Milky Way, Markarian galaxies, Morphological
Catalogue of Galaxies, Saguaro Astronomy Club Database
Strasbourg-ESO Catalogue of
Galactic Planetary Nebulae).
Although many parameters are easily customizable it lacks of ergonomy.
Worst, the Horizon mode, that should be the most intuitive appearance of
the sky is poor and stretched when displaying the nigh sky, but pleasant
at sun rise and dawn.
is however an interesting product because he gathers in a few
keystrokes a planetarium with progressive apparition of dimmer
colored stars according your zoom factor. In parallel it is able
to display comets and asteroids positions.
At last a floating
small window can display data and graphs about epehemerides and celestial
mechanics including eclipses, conjunctions, seasons, distances, moon phases
etc. AlphaCentaure is now at version 1.25 and runs on Windows 32-bit operating systems with SVGA.
Pro - The Earth Centered Universe
written by Canadian amateurs with routines from Jean Meeus, this product
is available in English or French. This is a what I call a very good
planetarium software for beginners, much better than other low-ends.
software release displays stars in white and is limited to magnitude 10 where DSO reach
mag.20 ! Asteroids are unknown and only six comets are included in this
version. You are also limited to a spherical projection of the sky and as
you fix the limit magnitude at beginning no supplementary faint stars
appears when you zoom in. The CD-ROM version is much more completed coming
with the Hubble Guide Star Catalog of 15 millions stars, includes the Yale
Bright Star catalog of 9100 stars to magnitude 6.5, the SAO star catalog
of 250000 stars and over 10000 DSO's. Deep sky objects are drawn with their correct size, shape, and orientation
when this information is included in the database. The CD-ROM version
includes also up to 50 comets and asteroids and you can add up to 4000
objects of your own.
side the display is fully customizable, a search engine can find any object
in the database and lock on it in AZ/ALT or RA/DEC coordinates. ECU
Pro's animation mode allows time increments from 1 minute to four
years, allowing you to move in
time to visualize favorable apparition of objects. Optionaly trails of objects
display time and labels. Dates entered in ECU Pro are limited between 4713BC
and 9999AD for any place on Earth.
but not least, ECU Pro is able to drive the mount of any Meade LX200 scope and
most models of digital setting circles including Nova Astronomics’ Micro-Guider
for which the publisher provides an interface (Micro Guider 5) bundle with
Pro is now at version 4.0A and runs on Windows 16 and 32-bit platforms with SVGA display.
2000, SAG/René Meader
swiss product written by René Meader for beginners. I recommand it if
you are looking for a fast and convenient planetarium software able to
display what you want in a second. It is simple and easy to use,
presenting stars in colors, but has no DSO database. In fact you have
to enter each objet manually. However it is sufficient to start a visual observation session equipped with a small scope.
the menu you can easily know if a planet is visible and instantaneously
display its positions above the horizon. Others options include a mini
planetarium allowing you to search for conjunction between planets and
Moon or to get a summary of ephemerides.
is now at version 5.2 and runs
on Windows 95,98 or NT with SVGA display.
NOTE: Due to the JPEG compression, colors of screen dumps are poorly rendered and
do not pay tribute to the work of their authors...
reviews are also available on the following websites :
& TELESCOPE - STELLARIUM
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