(c) Skyhound

SkyTools 3 has been over five years in the making.  An unprecedented number of exciting new features have been added!  In addition, every dialog and every function has been smoothed over; made ever more capable, intuitive and efficient.   

SkyTools 3 comes in two editions: Standard and Pro.  The Pro edition includes additional features such as planning tools for imaging sessions and a larger database.  The Real Time tool (telescope control) is included with the Pro package.   Jump to the Pro Edition features.

Major New Features of SkyTools 3
  • Innovative Visual Detection Model -- SkyTools 3 draws on scientific models of sky brightness, atmospheric conditions, and detection contrast to predict how difficult an object is to detect visually.  Objects are categorized from obvious to very challenging based on your telescope and observing conditions.

  • Double Star Pair Split Model -- we studied the major scientific models that predict which pairs can be split visually, combining and extending them to develop our own comprehensive model.  The atmosphere, optics, separation and magnitude difference of the pair is considered.  Double star pairs are categorized in terms of splittability for a given instrument, location, and observing conditions.  Categories range from obvious split to very challenging split

  • Science-Based Realistic Sky Simulation -- it's not only pretty, including beautiful vistas of the Milky Way, but its also an accurate depiction of which objects you can see.  Our new sky brightness, atmospheric, and visual detection models do an astounding job of selecting the objects you will see in the eyepiece and matching the sky background and stars.  The result is a tool that excels at helping you find challenging objects, whether it be via our unique star hopping charts or a simulated eyepiece view on your laptop at the telescope. 

  • Context Viewer -- an innovative side window for the Atlas that displays an accurate eyepiece simulation.  Drag the eyepiece FOV anywhere on the chart to see the simulation at that spot, and if a telescope is connected via our Real Time add-on the telescope will follow!

  • Nightly Observing List Generator -- auto-generate observing lists for a specific night, location and instrument.  Generate lists of showpieces, interesting deep sky objects, interesting solar system objects, well placed NGC/IC, lesser-known objects, interesting red or variable stars, or appealing double/triple stars. 

  • Observing Synopses -- auto-generated for any object.  Example: "On this night 6P/d'Arrest is best visible between 20:32 and 22:34, with the optimum view at 22:33. Look for it in Grus, fairly high in the southern sky in complete darkness. ... Use the Ultima 35mm eyepiece for optimum visual detection. It is magnitude 10.5 with a diameter of 5.7'.  In the following 30 days this object is detectable visually on October 19-26, with the best view coming on October 19. During this period it will fade rapidly and will reach minimum altitude of 13 on November 6.  6P/d'Arrest will next reach perihelion in late February 2015. It is also predicted to reach maximum brightness of magnitude 10.5 in late February."

  • Beautiful Simulated Planets and the current SOHO Sun image -- see today's sunspots.  Watch the shadow of the earth cross the moon.

  • Improved Object Requestor -- now tabbed into three separate functions:  the quick search, a powerful database browser, and coordinate entry.  New powerful fuzzy string searching.  Simple manual coordinates entry; coordinates can also be pasted into the dialog in a wide variety of formats.

  • The Premiere Double Star Database -- the largest vetted double star database, including the most highly corrected and cross referenced version of the Washington Double Star Catalog.  We spent six months finding lost or misplaced pairs, cross referencing component stars to the UCAC and USNO-B1 catalogs, as well as fixing numerous errors.  The resulting database boasts over 72,000 double star systems, each with as many as 21 individual component stars. 

  • More Accurate Stellar Database -- no more GSC data.  Our one-of-a-kind integrated database draws star data drawn from the best of the HIPPARCOS, Tycho 2, UCAC, USNO-B1, WDS, CCDM and GCVS catalogs.  In addition all the usual cross references are there from catalogs like the HD, SAO, BD, and PPM.  For the first time variable stars change brightness on the charts with time!

  • More Accurate Galaxy Database -- improved positions and orientations for over a million galaxies.

  • Larger, more accurate Nebula Database -- categorized by type, such as HII region, supernova remnant, or reflection nebula.

  • Data Sync between different computers -- copy your settings and data back and forth from one computer to another, folding the new information in, avoiding double entries and not overwriting existing data.

  • Complete Control over designations -- control the designation hierarchy for each class of objects.  If you don't like common names like Coddington's Nebula then you can turn them off completely.  Make Messier or NGC supreme, or if you prefer your planetary nebulae to be identified first and foremost by their "PN G" identifier then so be it.

  • Organized Data -- observing lists, object notes, ratings, links, and images are categorized for better control over your data.  Flexible new tools are provided for organization.

  • More Log Export Options -- control what data is exported (or printed) as well as the format.  Logs can be exported to a file in delimited form.

  • Double-star pair data in the observing list  

  • Jupiter Great Red Spot Events

  • Additional Telescopes via the Real Time add-on -- support has been added for the ServoCat, Tangent-based DSCs and the Argo Navis in its native mode.  Most of the latest features of ASCOM 2008 are also supported.

  • Object ratings, priority, and status indicators on your observing list

  • An integrated Supplemental Database Editor -- creating your own objects is simple and convenient.  

  • Multiple DSS image downloads

  • Effortless Download of Minor Planet Data -- filter downloads by minor planet orbit type.

  • New ways to create obstructed horizons for your locations

  • Expanded Database Power Search Tool

  • Create an Observing List from any text file

  • Mount alignment tools for Real Time

  • Three improved voices for notifications from the Real Time Tool

Visual Observing Planner


Naked Eye Simulation


New simulated Planets


New Designation Search Tool



All New SkyTools 3 Pro Edition Features

The Pro Edition is for the astronomical imager or any serious observer who wants the very best in observing software.  This edition has a much larger stellar database, with stars down to 20th magnitude.  The image below shows how dramatic the improvement is. 

Pass your cursor over the image to see the Pro Edition advantage.

Also notice that the open cluster position and diameter is greatly improved as well.  Every SkyTools database has been improved with more data and extensive correction, often by hand.
  • Innovative first of its kind Imaging Session Planner -- supports deep sky, planetary, lunar and solar imaging for astronomical CCDs, digital cameras, and video/web cams. Know with certainty when each object is best imaged.  When should I start tonight?  When should I stop?  Which of my target objects should I go after and whish should I save for another night?  

  • Exposure Calculator -- use this tool to make critical calculations and to explore the possibilities.  What is the optimum sub-exposure for my current conditions?  What is the estimated Signal to Noise Ratio I will obtain for a given exposure?  What is the estimated total exposure time needed to reach a specific Signal to Noise Ratio?   In what order should I expose when using multiple filters?  How much effect is the moon going to have tonight?  Should I travel to a dark site?   How long can I image a planet before rotational smear blurs the composite image?  What is my field of view?  How many pixels will a planet cover?  What is the optimum separation to use for eyepiece projection?

  • Imaging Context Viewer -- an innovative side window for the Atlas that displays a simulated image taken with your camera and telescope.  This tool is perfect for locating the correct field; readily compare a short exposure to the simulated image.  Drag the imaging FOV anywhere on the chart to test placement, and if a telescope is connected the telescope will follow!

  • Deepest Stellar Database -- 522 million stars to 20th magnitude over the entire sky.  The highest quality data available is used, including UCAC and selected stars from USNO-B1.0 catalog.

  • GPS Location Tool -- input your observing location directly from any GPS receiver with a standard NMEA interface.

  • Additional Image Download Selections -- SDSS, IR, H-alpha, and 2MASS images available for download. 

  • Minor Planets and Comets database search -- powerful filtered minor planet and comet database searches.  Filter by minor planet type: find scattered disk or NEO objects that are observable.  Discover what comet that was that Grandma saw in 1928.

  • More Powerful Database Search

  • Real Time Tool included!

Imaging Session Planner


Exposure Calculator


Context Viewer


Database Power Search