products/SkyMapPro/.

SkyMap Pro 11
New Features

 

This page describes in detail the new features in SkyMap Pro 11, and will be of particular interest to existing users of older versions of the program.

Please note that there are relatively few visibly new features in SkyMap Pro 11, but the entire program has been extensively re-written and re-structured "under the hood" in order to provide a much more solid foundation on which to make future changes to the program. Over the last few years, features had been "bolted on" to the program in a fairly ad hoc manner, making it rather difficult to maintain. A major rewrite and internal "clean up" was long overdue. This has now been done.

The new features of SkyMap Pro 11 are as follows:


Creation of "merged" star catalog

 

Previous versions of SkyMap used separate catalog files for, for example, the Tycho 2 catalog, the Hipparcos catalog, the variable and double star catalogs, and so on. This made it extremely difficult to cross-reference stars in one catalog with the corresponding star in the other catalogs, and led to numerous cases in which more than one "copy" of a star would be displayed on the star chart, generally in slightly different positions.

What we've done in this release is to merge the separate catalogs into a single "master" star catalog (with the exception of the Hubble Guide Star Catalog, which remains separate), properly cross-referencing all the information. This dramatically improves the consistency of the plotted and "textual" information, as well as enormously simplifying the internal structure of SkyMap. There is very little immediately evident "visual" change to the program as a result of this, but it does, in fact, make a massive improvement in the program's basic task of drawing accurate and complete star charts.


Updated star catalogs

Several of the star catalogs which provide the source material for the merged catalog described above have been updated to more recent versions. These include the Washington Catalog of Double Stars (updated from the 2001 version to the current 2005 version), the Binary Star Orbit Catalog (now the current 6th edition, rather than the older 5th edition), and the General Catalog of Variable Stars.


Updated NGC/IC Catalogs

SkyMap now uses a greatly revised and improved version of the NGC and IC catalogs. This significantly reduces errors and improves the quality and accuracy of the information displayed for these important "deep sky" catalogs.


Improved name filtering of deep sky objects

The name filter used when selecting deep sky objects for display on the map will now accept multiple catalog prefixes, separated by ";". Eg, entering a name filter of "NGC;IC" will display only those objects in the NGC or IC catalogs.


Improved display of small angular distances

When the status bar displays the separation of two objects on the map, if the separation is less than 1', it is now displayed as seconds of arc with one decimal place - eg 10.5". This added precision is useful when measuring very small distances such as the apparent diameter of planets, the separation of components of a multiple star system, and similar tasks.


Improved scale line display

The scale line displayed on the map at narrow fields of view can now indicate lengths as short as 0.1", rather than stopping at 1" as previously. The additional precision can be useful in some
situations.


Improved "hours of darkness" dialog

The "Hours of Darkness" dialog has been redesigned. The previous "This Week", "Next Week", etc, buttons have been replaced by two groups of buttons; one to select the period of time displayed (a day, a week, a month, or a year), and the other to select a specific date, or move the display forwards or backwards by the currently selected period.


Improved planet display

Planets are now drawn on the map in decreasing order of their distance from the Earth. This means that, for those extremely rare events when one planet passes in front of another as seen from the Earth, the event is displayed correctly. Previously such events were often displayed "back to front", with (for example) Jupiter passing in front of Mars, rather than vice versa.


Double click now re-centres map

Double clicking the map now re-centres it on the point clicked on. This is a useful shortcut for right-clicking the map and selecting "Centre" from the pop-up menu.