SkyMap Pro 7
New Features

This page describes in detail the new features in SkyMap Pro 7, and will be of particular interest to existing users of SkyMap Pro 6.

Stars displayed in correct colours

Stars from the Tycho catalog are now displayed in (approximately) their true colours, based on the B-V colour index of the star. Star colours are displayed whenever the sky background is not the "daylight" colour. The user can control the colour calibration to adjust the colours, if desired. This is an extremely useful enhancement - for example, it makes it easy to see which are the hot, blue stars of a cluster and which are merely "foreground stars" in the line of sight.

SAC database updated to version 7.1

SkyMap's main "deep sky" catalog is the Saguaro Astronomy Club (SAC) database. We now use version 7.1 of the SAC database, resulting in significant improvements to both the amount and the accuracy of the deep sky object information available.

Map overlays

Added "map overlays" to the program. Map overlays are a little like external data catalogs, but show lines and text on the map rather than "objects". They can be used for such things as displaying star atlas chart boundaries, showing fancy "artistic" constellation figures, or any other purpose that you can think of! Overlay files are simple "keyword-driven" text files and can easily be created using any available text editor. A sample overlay showing page boundaries of the "Uranometria 2000" star atlas is supplied with the program; a library of user-contributed overlays will be maintained on the SkyMap web site.

Quick search

Added a "quick search" field to the toolbar, providing a rapid method of searching for any object by name. Simply click the mouse in the search field, type a name such as "JUPITER", "M31", "BETA CAS", or "CERES", and press <enter> to perform the search. For the experienced user, this can be used in place of any of the seven separate items on the "search" menu and is a huge time-saver.

Search for events

Added a "Search for Events" feature allowing the user to search for astronomical "events" such as conjunctions, oppositions, minimum and maximum separations, extremes of declinations, and much more. The resulting list of events can be automatically converted to a SkyMap data table for future reference.

Quick catalog

Added a "Quick Catalog" for quickly adding new objects to the program without the effort of having to create a new external data catalog. This is not intended to be a replacement for external catalogs; its intended purpose is to provide a rapid method of seeing the location of newly discovered objects such as novae.

New telescope drivers

Added telescope drivers for the Celestron "NexStar" range of telescopes and the Astro-Physics "GTO" range of computer-controlled mounts.

Constellation names in map corners

Constellation names can now optionally be displayed in the corners of a map. This is very useful for maps with a narrow field of view for quickly identifying what general part of the sky is being displayed.

Enhanced eyepiece field of view circles

When adding an eyepiece field of view circle to the map, the program allows you to choose an eyepiece and a telescope, and calculates the resulting magnification and field of view. This has been extended to allow you to also specify a Barlow Lens of any desired "power".

Enhanced finder/binocular field circles

The "TelRad finder circles" annotation option has been replaced with a much more general-purpose "Finder/Binocular" option. This works in a similar way to the eyepiece circle, allowing you to select a pre-defined finder or binocular from a list, or to add your own entries to the list. Each item in the list has associated with it between 1 and 3 concentric circles, each with a specified angular diameter.

Enhanced camera/CCD frame annotation

The "Camera/CCD Frame" annotation option has been greatly enhanced. As with the finder annotation, frame definitions are now selected from a list to which you can add your own definitions. The program will calculate the angular size of a frame from its physical dimensions, and in addition to the "main" frame an associated "guide" frame can be defined for off-axis camera guiding, or CCDs with a separate guide chip. A frame can optionally have a surrounding "field of view" circle" to show the area of sky visible within the frame as it's rotated to different angles.

"Delete annotations" facility

Previously, if an annotation such as an eyepiece field of view circle, line, text, etc, was incorrectly positioned on the map, the only way to correct it was to remove all the annotations from the map and start again from scratch. There's now a "Delete Annotations" option on the "View" menu allowing annotations to be individually deleted from the map, making it easy to corrrect errors.

Magnitude adjustment for deep sky object types

A "magnitude adjustment" can now be entered for each specific type of deep sky object; this is added to the general "deep sky limiting magnitude" to get the limiting magnitude for that type of object. This allows you to set different magnitude limits for different types of object - a very useful capability.

Independent display of dark nebulae

Display of "dark nebulae" can now be switched on or off independently of the other types of deep sky object. Dark nebulae have (by definition!) no "magnitude", and previously the only way they could be displayed was to switch off the "magnitude filter" for all the other types of deep sky object, often resulting in a very crowded map. It's now possible, for example, to display deep sky objects down to mag 10, and also display dark nebulae.

Tooltip display of brief object information

When the mouse is left over any object on the map for longer than 1 second, brief details of the object are displayed in a "tooltip" window at the location of the mouse pointer. This automatically vanishes when the mouse is moved. This is very useful for seeing the name of an object without having to display the full information dialog. This feature can be switched off, if desired.

New deep sky labelling option

Previously, deep sky objects could be labelled either with a catalog number (eg "M57") or with a popular name (eg "Ring Nebula"). There's now the option to label the object with both (eg "M57 - Ring Nebula").

Info dialog buttons replaced by menu

Replaced the "Log", "Query", "Picture", etc, buttons in each object information dialog by a menu; this gives us more room to display the actual object information, and much more flexibility to add more options to the dialog.

New "add to target list" option in object info dialogs

All object information dialogs now have an "Add to Target List" menu item to add the object to the current target list. This makes it a lot easier to manually create target lists containing specific objects.

Increased flexibility in target list names

When creating a target list, it was previously necessary to make the name in the target list precisely match the "preferred name" of the object in SkyMap's databases. If this wasn't done, the "link" between a target list and the observing log database wouldn't work correctly. When communicating with the observing log, the target list now "looks up" the object name first and uses the version of the name that's used by the observing log. For example, if you wanted to add the "Ring Nebula" to a target list, you previously had to use the precise name "M 57". Not only can you now use "M57" or "m57", but you can also use "Ring Nebula" or "NGC 6720" and the target list will correctly identify the object in the observing log database. This additional "name lookup" operation slightly slows down the "Update from observing log" target list operation, but it's well worthwhile for the extra flexibility it gives.

Target list catalog

Added a "target list catalog" to display on the star chart the objects contained in the current target list. This makes it easy to see the location of the objects on the target list, and can also be used to create charts showing only specific deep sky objects - a much requested feature.

Logging observations in LMT

When logging observations, the default observation time was previously always set to the UT equivalent of the current map time; this is a sensible default, since it's "conventional" to log observation times in UT. Several users requested the ability to log observations in local (clock) time, so there's now an additional page on the database configuration dialog allowing you to select whether the default time is set to UT or LMT.

New observation planning tool

The previous "Best Visiblity" and "Current Visibility" items on the "Planning" menu have been removed and replaced with a single "Target List Visibility" item which combines the capabilities of both these previous facilities and offers many more facilities besides. The new dialog allows you to define the duration of your observing session and only shows you the objects on the target list which are visible during that session. You can display information about any object, or "goto" the object on the star chart. Objects can be marked "observed" or "not observed", and observations logged and queried. The path of any object through the sky can be seen graphically, and times of twilight and darkness shown. This new dialog is intended to be a "focal point" from which to plan and manage your entire observing session, and is a key feature of the new version of the

SAO catalog numbers for stars

We can now search for stars by their SAO catalog number, and SAO numbers for stars are displayed in the star information dialog.

Variable star magnitude range displayed

When displaying information for variable stars, the summary info at the top of the dialog now displays the magnitude range and variability type from the GCVS; this is much more useful than Hipparcos or Tycho magnitude data for such a star. The magnitude range for a variable star is also displayed in the popup "tooltip" information for the star.

User-definable keyboard shortcuts

The list of "keyboard shortcuts" associated with menu and toolbar commands is now completely configurable by the user. This allows you to associate any key sequence you wish with any of the program's commands. For example, if you use Target Lists a great deal, you could make the "Ctrl+T" keystroke display the target list dialog.

"Manual" data catalog display option

A catalog level range setting of "0 to 0" is now treated as a "manual" setting, and SkyMap will never switch the catalog on or off itself. When the catalog is switched on by the user it will stayed on until manually switched off again by the user.

Tabular dialogs remember column widths

Dialogs displaying "tabular" information in columns now automatically "remember" the column widths set by the user.

Satellite tracks display satellite name

When right-clicking on a satellite track, the pop-up menu item now says "<satellite name> Track Time" rather than "Satellite Track Time". This is helpful for telling tracks apart when tracks of several different satellites are displayed on the map.

New "ephemeris" option in object info dialogs

Added an "Ephemeris" button to the info dialog for planets, comets, and asteroids. When clicked, the info dialog is dismissed and the ephemeris dialog for the object displayed. This provides a "shortcut" method for displaying an ephemeris in addition to the original method of going through the "Search" dialogs.

"Track time" option for object tracks

Right clicking on a marked point on a planet, comet or asteroid track now displays an "<object name> Track Time" item on the pop-up menu. Selecting this menu item sets the map time to the time and date of the point on the track.

"Confirm zoom" option

Added a "confirm zoom" option to the global preferences dialog. If this option is set (as it is by default), dragging a selection rectangle brings up the field of view dialog to confirm the new field of view, as before. If the option is not set, dragging a selection rectangle immediately zooms in to the selected area with no confirmation.

"Show search marker" option

Added a "show search marker" to the global preferences dialog to allow the user to choose whether or not the position of the target of a search is shown by a visual marker on the map.

Precess coordinates tool

Added a tool for precessing coordinates from one epoch to another. This is handy when referring to object positions from older reference sources which list coordinates referred to the epoch B1950.0.

Flat toolbars

SkyMap's toolbars now have the modern "flat" look.