SkyChart 3.5.1 review

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SkyChart is an advanced planetarium program that accurately simulates and displays the sky as it appears in the present, or from thousands of years in the past or future.

License: Demo
OS: Mac OS X
File size: 6012K
Developer: Southern Stars
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Price: $49.00
Updated: 25 Apr 2006
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SkyChart is an advanced planetarium program that accurately simulates and displays the sky as it appears in the present, or from thousands of years in the past or future. With SkyChart you can view the sky from any place on Earth, from any object in the solar system, or even from thousands of light years beyond it.

SkyChart is also a telescope control program, supporting all of the leading computer-controlled telescopes available on the market today. SkyChart lets you enjoy the benefits of computer-aided observing: see where the telescope is pointing on your computer screen, or slew the telescope to any object in the sky with a single click of the mouse.

Here are some key features of "SkyChart":
Accurately reproduces eclipses, transits, and occultations - as seen not only from Earth, but also from any place in the solar system. Watch the Moon orbit the Earth as seen from another planet, or witness the passage of a comet through the solar system as if you were riding on the comet!
Shows you the sky from beyond the solar system, and lets you watch the celestial scenery change as you move. View the constellations from hundreds or thousands of light years away!
Animates the sky forward or backward in time over thousands of years. Watch the celestial poles precess; see the constellations shift as the stars move over the millenia.
Supports leading computer-controlled telescopes from Meade, Celestron, and other manufacturers. See where the telescope is pointing on your computer screen; slew the telescope to any object in the sky with a single click of the mouse. SkyChart III even has a "red screen" mode to preserve your night vision when working at the telescope!
Includes two fully-customizable object databases. The Standard database is installed on your hard drive and contains 400, stars, plus tens of thousands of star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. The Large database resides on the CD-ROM, and contains everything in the Standard database, plus over 19 million additional stars, and 1 million more galaxies. Import your own database files to add new comets, asteroids, stars, planets, or deep-sky objects. Any existing object in the database can be edited, even the constellations!
Renders star images and planet surfaces in 32-bit color with data derived from NASA spacecraft imagery. Print high-resolution finder charts in black and white or color; or export images in many different file formats like BMP, GIF, JPEG, PICT, TIFF. Save animations as GIF files viewable in any web browser!
Computes positions of the Sun, Moon, major planets, their moons, dozens of comets and asteroids to within milli-arcseconds of their values in the Astronomical Almanac. Investigate historical events like eclipses and conjunctions that happened centuries ago, and accurately reproduce what ancient peoples saw.
Computes and displays the positions of Earth satellites from standard NASA/NORAD two-line element satellite orbit files using the full-precision SGP4/SDP4 satellite orbit models. Follow the International Space Station across the sky, or predict a satellite passage in front of the Moon.

What's New:
This release brings the code base of the English-language version up to sync with the newly released Spanish-language version. A number of changes were made to support better internationalization/localization:
* The decimal-point character is now locale-specific; decimals are displayed as "," in European locales, and "." in North America. (The computer's regional settings are used to determine the locale.) Decimal points in text import files and settings files are always assumed to be the US (".") decimal-point character, for consistency. [Note: this functionality is only present in the Windows version of SkyChart III; we're still trying to make it work on Mac OS X.]
* All strings in data files, and settings descriptions in settings files, are converted to Windows Latin-1 encoding before being written to disk. This ensures that accented and other european-language characters will translate properly between Mac and Windows.
* A case-sensitive search for an object name is now sensitive to both case and diacritics (e.g. accents, umlauts, etc). When case is ignored, diacritics are also ignored - e.g. a search for "Jupiter" will also find "Jpiter", and a search for "Saturn" will also find "Sturn".
In the chart legend, the full names of deep sky objects are being displayed, instead of abbreviations.
In the "Object Info" window, a number of text strings and buttons were rearranged. The object type for the Sun is now displayed as "Star"; for the major planets as "Planet"; for moons as "Moon". The star type for single stars is now simply listed as "Star".
For years outside 1600 - 2100 A.D., the program uses new expressions for the precession of the equinox provided by W. M. Owen of JPL. These new expressions should provide realistic results for a much wider interval of +/- 500, years from J2. (The previous expressions "blew up" and displayed highly unrealistic results after roughly 10, years from J2.) For the time period 1600 - 2100 A.D., the previous (IAU 1976) expressions for precession are still used.
Previous versions of the Windows installer for SkyChart III installed a 16-bit version of the uninstall application (UnWise.exe). This update replaces it with the 32-bit version.
Fixed a crash in the Mac OS X version that occurred when moving the mouse inside a progress-bar dialog.
Removed timing code in the Mac OS X version that was causing a performance-profiling dialog to appear sporadically.
The Mac OS X version of SkyChart III can now launch properly on Macs with 2.0 GB of RAM or more installed. The Mac OS X installer/updater application should no longer display a warning on Macs with more than 2.0 GB of RAM. (This warning can safely be ignored, however.)
The Mac OS X version now has the main window's "close" button enabled; clicking it quites the application. The "Quit" menu command has moved from the File menu to the "SkyChart III" menu, for better conformance with Apple's Mac OS X interface guidelines.

128 MB of memory
35 MB of hard disk space; 510 MB for optional large database
PowerPC G3 233 MHz or faster processor.

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