SkyMap Pro 12
SkyMap Pro 12 is a sophisticated star charting and planetarium program. It can display the sky as seen from any location on earth for any date between 4000BC and 8000AD, showing fields of view ranging from the entire visible sky down to a detailed telescopic "finder chart" for a faint galaxy. The program also provides a powerful set of tools for observation planning and recording.
Although SkyMap Pro 12 has the power to satisfy the needs of even the most demanding user, the program is easy to learn to use, and is primarily controlled with the mouse using simple "toolbars". A set of tutorial lessons and a detailed "on line" help system provides extensive operating instructions and reference information.
SkyMap Pro 12 is the end result of decades of development work (work on the program started in 1986) and the program is used by many thousands of astronomers all over the world. The program's evolution has always been primarily guided by feedback from existing users of the program, thus making it the ideal tool for use by the practical amateur astronomer.
We recommend the following as the minimum system requirement for running SkyMap Pro 12:
Amongst the basic facilities of SkyMap Pro are the following:
SkyMap Pro has many powerful features primarily targeted at the more "advanced" user. These include:
SkyMap Pro has a built-in observing log allowing you to make a record of all your observations. This is fully integrated with the star chart - to record an observation for an object simply display the information dialog for that object and select the Log menu item; the observing log screen comes up ready for you to record your observation with all the appropriate object details already filled in for you.
A powerful search facility makes it easy to locate your observations. If you simply want to see a list of all the observations you've made of a specific object (by far the most common situation), display the information dialog for the object and select the Query menu item. If you want to make a more general query, a search dialog allows you to specify many different parameters - you could, for example, say "show me all the observations of galaxies I made from my dark sky observing site during October 1999".
The observing log has been developed in close collaboration with a group of very active observers, and has been designed to meet the needs of the practical observer, especially as far as ease of use is concerned.
The program has a powerful set of observation planning tools. These are all based around the idea of a "target list" - a list of objects that you wish to observe. A number of target lists are supplied with the program (eg the Messier Catalog, Herschel 400 list, etc), and it's very easy to create your own lists, either manually or from the results of a search operation (you can say, for example, "generate a list of all the galaxies in Leo which are brighter than magnitude 12 and bigger than 1' in size").
At its most basic level, you can simply use the target list to "check off" those objects you've observed. Target lists are closely coupled with the observing log; when you create or open a new list you can automatically check off those objects which are recorded in the observing log, allowing you to concentrate on "new" objects which you've not yet observed.
Additional tools allow you to plan an observing program for your target list - you can easily see which objects on the target list are currently visible, and when objects are best placed for observation during a planned observing session.
A library of target lists is available for download, free of charge, from this web site.
SkyMap Pro can predict the passes of, and display the tracks of, artificial Earth satellites, using standard "TLE" (two-line element) orbital elements. Up-to-date elements can be downloaded automatically from the internet at the click of a button.
The program can either predict the passes of a specified satellite over a range of dates, or the passes of all satellites in its database for a single night. You can display either all passes, or only visible passes (ie passes during which the satellite is in sunlight and the observer in darkness).
Pass predictions are initially displayed in a "tabular" form, making it easy to see the results at a glance. You can then select one or more passes from this table and display them as "tracks" on the star chart, allowing you to see the path of the satellite amongst the stars.
The program can also display the "ground track" of a satellite, showing its path over the Earth's surface in either a tabular form, or graphically on a world map.
The program uses the standard NORAD "SGP4" and "SDP4" mathematical models for predicting satellite positions, thus ensuring highly accurate results.
SkyMap Pro can predict local circumstances for any eclipse of the Sun or Moon occuring between 2000 BC and 3000 AD. For solar eclipses, the program can also display the track of the eclipse on a highly-detailed world map; just like a star chart window, the map window can be scrolled, zoomed in and out, printed, etc.
SkyMap Pro can "talk" to a variety of different telescopes and "digital setting circles" using a serial cable between the computer and the telescope or DSC (cables are not supplied with the program). This is done using plug-in "device drivers", making it easy to add support for new devices to the program. Drivers are supplied with the program to control the following devices:
In addition to the above devices which SkyMap has its own "native" telescope drivers for, the program is also supplied with an ASCOM telescope driver allowing it to control any telescope supported by the ASCOM standard. Visit http://www.ascom-standards.org to find out more information about ASCOM, and http://www.ascom-standards.org/drivers.html to see a list of the telescopes and mounts which ASCOM currently supports. Note that, in order to use the ASCOM telescope driver from within SkyMap it is first necessary to download and install a 5MB "runtime" package from the ASCOM web site.
When computer control is activated, a cross-hair cursor on the map marks the point in the sky at which the telescope is aimed. On devices which support "slewing" under computer control, the telescope can be aimed at any object simply by clicking the desired object on the SkyMap Pro map.
SkyMap Pro is supplied with many complete data catalogs, including:
Although SkyMap Pro is supplied with a huge amount of information, there are situations in which it's very useful to be able to add your own data to the program. SkyMap Pro is supplied with an easy-to-use data preparation tool which makes it straightforward to add to the program virtually any catalog which is available as an ASCII text file. Once added to SkyMap Pro, such catalogs are fully integrated with the program - the objects they contain are displayed on the map and can be searched for and have information about them displayed in just the same way as can be done for the built-in data catalogs.
A library of additional data catalogs is available free of charge on this web site.
In the same way that external data catalogs can be used to add additional "objects" to a star chart, map overlays provide a method of displaying additional lines or text on the chart. They can be used for such purposes as displaying page boundaries from a star atlas, drawing "artistic" constellation figures on a star chart, or showing the motion of a meteor shower radiant over time. Map overlays are simple text files with "keywords" telling SkyMap what to do; the SkyMap Pro manual contains detailed instructions about writing your own overlay files.
A library of freely downloadable map overlays is available on this web site.