More "Sky in your Hand"
Last month Pete Kasper reviewed several astronomy programs that he used on a PalmOne personal digital assistant (PDA), all from Star Pilot Technologies. This month I am reviewing a shareware program called "Planetarium". You can download it from http://www.aho.ch/pilotplanets
The primary viewing screen is the Sky View. Unlike some sky programs the view is crisp, clear and very viewable. You can view an area of the sky from 180 degrees to one degree, and can select (from the available objects) what is displayed on the screen. You can display the Messier, Caldwell, asteroid, comet, planet, double stars and stars (Bayer, Yale or Flamstead), as well as 1000 additional deep sky items. There is no specific NGC listing available. Just touch an object to get its name and location. Additional information is available, such as magnitude, distance, altitude, azimuth, rise time, set time, etc by selecting the info button. Distances between objects are given in degrees, just by touching them on the screen.
img class="articleImage" src="/articles/images/planetarium_sky_view.jpg" width=212 height=211> The second viewing screen is a compass view, showing altitude and azimuth in a very clear display mode. Objects selected on the Sky View are shown. Here you get a visual indication or direction (N, S, E, W) and altitude, making it easy to visually find, or to point your scope to the right coordinates. The program claims it can drive a telescope to a position, or show the sky view at the location the scope is pointing, with the addition of a serial interface to your PDA. (I have not evaluated this feature).Finally, it has all the standard moon phases, sunrise, sunset, etc information available, and a red nighttime viewing mode.
The program is very easy to use, and replaces a simple constellation and object chart. It is great for 'shallow' star gazing with the eyes or binoculars, as an aid to showing the sky to family and friends. For Messier, Caldwell observing, it's a good scope guide and reference. While most readily visible objects and stars can be identified with the touch of a stylus, it lacks the depth of a detailed star chart, and has a fixed limitation on the objects available to view, though you can 'add your own' objects. Its shareware price is about 24 Euros ($31), and as shareware you can fully evaluate the software before you decide to buy it.Published in the June 2005 issue of the NightTimes