(c) Skyhound

SkyTools is Software for the Observer

SkyTools is the only complete suite of software tools designed specifically for astronomical observing.   Designed by an avid observer trained as a professional astronomer, each tool is second to none.  But what makes SkyTools truly powerful is the seamless and intuitive way each tool works with the others.

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Join the author for a tour of the SkyTools Nightly Planner

The SkyTools Nightly Planner is a powerful tool with unique capabilities.  The author demonstrates his intuitive approach to planning visual observations. 

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The SkyTools 3 Highlight Tour 

The author takes you on a whirlwind tour with something for everyone, from star hoppers to astrophotographers.

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Not All Astronomy Software is the Same

It's the Astronomy that matters

Planetarium programs that display the sky are a dime a dozen these days. They can be found on every platform, including your phone. But as useful as displaying the sky on your mobile device can be, it doesn’t directly help you figure out what objects you should be observing. For that you need observation planning.

Traditionally amateur astronomers have picked objects from guide books, observed them at the time of year indicated, and waited until they were high enough above the horizon to observe. But what if the writer was using a bigger telescope from a dark site? Or a smaller one from a light polluted location? Can you still expect to even see these objects? What interesting objects were left out? How close to the right time of year do you need to be? How high in the sky is good enough? How dark is dark enough? How much difference do these things make if you are looking at a double star, planet, or planetary nebula?

There are programs designed for observation planning, with spreadsheets of data and complicated graphics. But in practice they fall short of answering the above questions. In the end, you are still left wondering if the object is worth looking at with your equipment under your conditions, and it is still up to you to decide how high in the sky is high enough, or how dark is dark enough. In other words, despite all their complexities, where these programs fail is the astronomy.

It is the astronomy that separates SkyTools from planetariums and the spreadsheet planners. Observing software should help you find new objects that are suitable for your equipment and conditions and tell you if any given object is worth your effort. It should help you figure out which of these objects are best to observe tonight, and what time of night they are best observed. These things should not be based on some rule of thumb, but on an accurate scientific model that takes into account everything from the amount of light pollution to the characteristics of the object. When you stop and think about it, how well a deep sky object appears in the telescope depends primarily on the contrast. Only SkyTools uses a scientific model that computes contrast at any given moment in time. By comparing contrast at different times of the night, for varying equipment or sky conditions, SkyTools can tell you definitively when you will get your best view. Similarly, for astro-imaging, SkyTools computes the signal-to-noise ratio, which also varies with equipment, conditions, and target object. In this way the SkyTools planner answers the important astronomy questions, providing much more powerful tools, yet surprisingly, they are more simple to use.

SkyTools is a complete observing system. It's foundations are highly-corrected databases and scientific models. On top of this solid foundation sit the planning tools, finder charts, telescope simulations, fully-featured interactive atlas, and logbook. Observers can count on these tools to help them get more from their limited time to observe, and spend more time observing and less time fiddling with their software. Nobody who owns SkyTools should get stuck observing the same objects again and again, end up looking at crappy views of nebulae near the horizon, or be left wondering why they weren't able to see that comet everyone is talking about.

To see the core of the SkyTools approach feel free to download the free trial of the Starter Edition. Although not suitable for larger telescopes and devoid of many features, the author's ability to get straight to the heart of observation planning shines through.

Below are some of the things that make SkyTools stand head and shoulders above the rest.

  • Fully Integrated Databases -- Only SkyTools draws the best data from multiple sources to create highly corrected databases for both stars and deep sky objects. Learn more...

  • Smarter Planning -- Only SkyTools uses a comprehensive scientific model for planning that fully takes into account your telescope and observing conditions. The result is much smarter planning, including true optimum times to observe and direct comparisons to other nights, scopes, or conditions. Learn more...

  • Visual Difficulty Ratings -- Objects are rated as "obvious", "difficult", "very challenging", etc, as seen in any telescope/binoculars under any observing conditions at any given time. Other software with similar-sounding features are either very limited or only make generic estimates.

  • Double-Star Splittability Ratings -- Star pairs are rated as "obvious split", "difficult", "challenging", etc. Not only is this useful in choosing pairs to observe, but you can readily compare ratings on different nights and under different conditions. 

  • Finder Charts -- The unique SkyTools finder charts make "star hopping" easy. These finder charts have been tested on complete novices with great success and continuously refined for nearly 20 years.  Learn more...

  • All Double Stars Are Accurately Depicted on Charts -- only SkyTools allows you to zoom in to any double star -- even binaries with orbits -- to accurately see the individual component stars appear, drawn correctly for any given date.

  • Powerful Interactive Atlas -- a highly customizable "atlas on a computer" that in itself is as powerful as many other software products.

  • Imaging Session Planner -- (Pro) The imaging session planning tools predict the final signal-to-noise-ratio of your image for any telescope, camera, or observing conditions. Rules of thumb can only take you so far because there are too many variables. Does it make sense to keep exposing after the moon rises? Which filter is least affected by moonlight? How many images do you need to stack to get a good detection of a supernova? SkyTools can answer these questions for your imaging system and your observing conditions. Learn more...

  • Intelligent Telescope Control -- Plan what to observe in real time at the telescope, then effortlessly drive the scope to your targets. Or find an area of the sky on the atlas and drag the scope around the sky by moving the field of view.

  • Better Comet and Novae/Supernovae Data -- At Skyhound we monitor recent observations, updating within hours of a nova or supernova discovery, and we keep the magnitudes, coma diameters and DC up to date for the observable comets. This information is easily downloaded from within SkyTools in the form of one of the "Current" observing lists, ready for use in the planner.  

Read more about the unique and powerful features in SkyTools for comet observing.

SkyTools 3 is Available in Three Editions

SkyTools 3 Starter Edition 

  $39.95 buy

For the novice backyard observer with binoculars or a telescope up to 4.5 inches (120 mm) in aperture. This edition is simple enough for anyone to use and comes with a beginners observing handbook (pdf).

Read about the Starter Edition

Windows Download    Download Free Trial

SkyTools 3 Standard Edition

  $99.95 buy

For the basic visual observer with a moderate sized telescope up to ~14 inches (360 mm).

 

Read about the Standard Edition

 

Windows Download or Windows CDROM

SkyTools 3 Professional Edition

  $179.95 buy

For the astronomical imager, the experienced visual observer who observes from dark a site, or any serious observer who wants the very best in observing software. This edition has advanced features and a much larger stellar database with stars down to 20th magnitude. The Real Time Add-on is included.

Read about the Professional Edition

Imaging / Astrophotography  

Windows Download or Windows CD+DVD

 

Read SkyTools 3 Secrets: Ten Useful Things Other Software Can't Do

   

Read about our Club Discount Program