Category : Astronomy Software

Satellite Tracker

Satellite Tracker is a very useful freeware Windows program which can connect to an LX200 and it allows you to track and view satellites with your telescope, including the ISS.

The satellite tracker software was a hard program to find and download, I actually got sent it by someone who sold me my Meade Super Wedge. So I have decided to put the program on my site for download, so hopefully more people can find it and use it.

Satellite Tracker for Windows

You will need to create an account at www.space-track.org in order to download the satellite data.

Download Satellite Tracker (528k)

Update 10th May 2016

I have now been told that Satellite Tracker has a new lease of life and the file above is quite old. A new version and new forum is available at: http://www.heavenscape.com/

Buy Windows 7 Now for £79.99

Windows 7 Home PremiumI ordered my copies of Windows 7 Home Premium Edition from Comet online for £44.99 each including Free Delivery.

Now the cheapest price appears to be buying it for £79.99 – that’s for the full retail version of  Windows 7 Home Premium Edition. Don’t go to Amazon and pay over £100.

Buy Windows 7 Home Premium from Misco for £79.99

Buy Windows 7 Home Premium from Savastore for £79.99

I installed the Windows 7 release candidate on my home media centre and I was amazed at first how quickly it installed, in about 15 minutes, and then how well it ran. I had to tweak the odd settings to make it sleep after recording TV programs etc, but otherwise it’s really good and I can’t recomment it enough.

It’s definitely worth upgrading to Windows 7 if you are running a Media Centre or if you have Vista and don’t like it!

I originally installed Windows 7 on a 1GHz PC with 512MB RAM. This was an old HP PC that is now in my observatory, it must have been about 8-10 years old, but Windows 7 installed in about 15 minutes and worked really well on it, I was amazed, there was also only a 64MB Graphics Card in a PCI slot in the PC.

I found that when looking at Windows 7 running on the PC it takes about 384MB of RAM to run, whereas XP does take a lot less – something like 128MB RAM, so as I had such little RAM (512MB) I did uninstall Windows 7 and go back to Windows XP. But I am still really happy with Windows 7 and looking forward to the release date.

Microsoft World Wide Telescope Talk

Last night I attended a talk at the Institute of Astronomy by a Microsoft employee named Jonathan Fay about the World Wide Telescope program.

It was great talk, and good to see a live demo on a piece of software from Microsoft which is free to download and use on Mac/PC and soon Linux or you can use the web client version.

The World Wide Telescope is an initiative from Microsoft that allows anyone to browse the Universe from the comfort of their own laptop. Combining up-to-date images from space- and ground-based telescopes with features such as expert guided tours, it is a project that can both inspire and educate anyone from the complete novice to the informed amateur.

The program is very similar to Starry Night Pro or Stellarium, but it includes lots of different images including Hubble Telescope images and X-ray images. The amount of features in the program is amazing.

There are some major features of the World Wide Telescope, such as being able to view images in 3D by wearing standard 3D glasses. We were treated to views of Jupiter and it’s moons in 3D as well as viewing valleys on Mars in 3D.

You can also control your computerised telescope via the program, via the ASCOM platform (not available in the web client version). The program can also show you what your imager (e.g. Celestron or Meade) will also see in the sky.

There are also some amazing panorama images such as the Apollo landings, and the program allows you to zoom-in on say the astronauts footprints.

The interface is really easy to use, you can also zoom in and view the Earth.  You can also view the sky from different angles and actually leave our galaxy and look back at it.

The only downside to the program, is that you need a fairly new PC to install the client application, it says you need at least a 2Ghz Dual Core CPU. I don’t think a lot of people keep this kind of powerful PC in their observatories, but most people should have this power in their home PC.

If you don’t have this type of PC, then you can use the web client version which runs through a browser, you will have to install Silverlight first though. The disadvantage of using the program through a browser is that the program runs a little slower and that some features get omitted from this version, such as viewing in 3D and the Telescope control via ASCOM.

But do give it a go, it may become your main astronomy program.

http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/

Find Asteroid TU24 in Stellarium

I know this may be a bit late, but as soon I knew about the Asteroid TU24 passing the earth, I went into Starry Night Pro to try and find the asteroid, but it was not in the program, so I went to Meade Autostar Suite and again I could not find the TU24 asteroid in the library.

So whilst searching around the internet I found a way to add the TU24 co-ordinates to Stellarium, so you can locate the asteroid.

Asteroid TU24 Sky Map and Star MapOtherwise if you don’t want to install Stellarium (which is free!), take a look at this star map of where to look in the sky, click on it to see the enlarged version.

This map will show you the position of TU24 during the days of 29th and 30th January 2008, and so should help you find out where to look in the sky, if we get a chance to see it, with all this cloud and rain about at the moment.

1. Install Stellarium

2. Locate the file called ssystem.ini, in Microsoft Windows this is located in the folder C:\Program Files\Stellarium\data. Open the file in a text file editor, such as Notepad, and at the end of the file add the following lines of code:

[2007 TU24]
name = 2007 TU24
parent = Sun
radius = 0.124
oblateness = 0.0
albedo = 0.113
lighting = true
sidereal_period = 1040.25
halo = true
color = 1.0,1.0,1.0
tex_halo = star16x16.png
tex_map = nomap.png
coord_func = comet_orbit
orbit_Epoch = 2454200.5
orbit_MeanAnomaly = 265.6255185
orbit_SemiMajorAxis = 2.00968916
orbit_Eccentricity = 0.528994467
orbit_ArgOfPericenter = 333.5938528
orbit_AscendingNode = 127.1794738
orbit_Inclination = 5.8015979

3. Save the file

4. Start Stellarium, use the search facility (magnifying glass) and enter 2007 TU24. The asteroid will then appear in the program.

5. Stellarium with then tell you the current RA and Dec positions of TU24 in the upper left hand corner once you have locked onto the asteroid. So you could then enter and save these positions into Autostar under User Objects, in order to give you a starting point to locate the asteroid, then just Sync on it, once your telescope finds it.

Google Sky Review

Last night I managed to download the newly update version of Google Earth which includes the new Google Sky add in. I had the previous version of Google Earth installed on my laptop, and the upgrade was seamlessly easy.

Google Earth starts with the image of the Earth and you the have to click on the ‘Sky’ button the toolbar to access Google Sky.

I was then presented with a horizon free view of the sky. Some parts of the sky look like a patchwork quilt of images, where you can see the joins of the images.

You can search for objects or zoom-in on them using the on screen controls. It is also possible to see the astronomical constellations by playing with settings.

The movement of the ‘sky’ is very smooth via the online streaming. I did find it difficult to find planets using the search facility, and the in-built ‘planets in motion’ facility where you can see planets orbiting in time was not that great as I managed to get overlaps of a lot of images, unless that was the intention of the program.

I was amazed to see RA and Dec settings on the screen, so the program is usable when using setting circles.

A lack of the horizon is a dissapointment, but I think Google Sky is not trying to be the new Starry Night Pro, but it is a very good tool in order to get a general education in astronomy for beginners, so is a good educational tool.

The Google Sky images are also very good and of high quality, well done Google on this free tool.

If I find out more about the program and features I shall add them to the review.

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