All Astronomy Software is the Same
the Astronomy that matters
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
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
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.
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.
are some of the things that make SkyTools stand head and
shoulders above the rest.
Integrated Databases -- Only
SkyTools draws the best data from multiple sources to
create highly corrected databases for both stars and
deep sky objects. Learn
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
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.
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.
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.
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
correctly for any given date.
Interactive Atlas -- a highly customizable
"atlas on a computer"
that in itself is as powerful as many other software
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
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.
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.
more about the unique and
powerful features in SkyTools for comet observing.