Apr 02 2014

Starry Night Pro Plus 7 Released

Starry Night Pro Plus 7

Graphics courtesy of Starry Night®
Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation
Curriculum Corp.

Simulation Curriculum Corporation announced the release of the long anticipated update to it’s Starry Night software product line today.  Starry Night Pro Plus 7 has been released and is available at a great discounted price to current owners of the software.  Many new features have been added to the popular planetarium program which is geared towards educators and amateur astronomers alike. I have been fortunate to have hands on experience working with the new product in advance of it’s release today. Look for a full review coming soon to DaltonSkyGazer.com.

Some very powerful new features have been added to the new release.  The new user interface has a sharp, yet minimalistic look.  The powerful tools I grew to love are all still there along with many new ones. The new interface just makes it much easier to get around the program while minimizing screen clutter at the same time.  The user has an astonishing amount of data and viewing options to select from.  Planning your next imaging run or creating your nightly viewing list is an extremely fun and easy task to accomplish with Starry Night Pro Plus 7.

System Requirements:

Windows 8/7/Vista or Macintosh OS X 10.7 or higher. 1GHz or higher processor, 1 GB RAM and 12 GB of hard disk space. 128 MB OpenGL 1.4 capable graphics card.


Tour the cosmos like never before with all New Advanced Features.


Starry Night Pro Plus 7 makes it easier than ever to access professional grade features and databases, and control your telescope. Engineered for precision, designed for research, and continually evolving for the astronomer who expects the very best in-class planetarium experience.


A few screen captures of the New Starry Night Pro Plus 7 below, followed by the features list. You can click on each image to see a large view.

Screenshot of Starry Night Pro Plus 7 Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® (Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp.

Screenshot of Starry Night Pro Plus 7
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night®
(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation
Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image to See Full Size Version


My current default Starry Night Startup screen. Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® (Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp.

Screenshot of my current default Starry Night Startup screen.
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night®
(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation
Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image to See Full Size Version


Screenshot Fov indicator on, default equipment list active.   Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® (Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp.

Screenshot FOV indicator on.
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night®
(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation
Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image to See Full Size Version


Close  up view Lagoon Region with outlines enabled Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp.

Close up view Lagoon Region with outlines enabled
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night®
Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation
Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image to See Full Size Version


Asteroid and Comet list for viewable objects current year.   Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp. Click on Image for Full Size Image

Quick Find Tool.
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image for full size version

Starry Night Export function.  This is a png of planetarium program using Starry Night Export function. Click on Image For Larger View

Starry Night Export function. This is a PNG of planetarium program using Starry Night Export function.
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp
Click on Image For Larger View

Tons of New Features Included in the All New Version 7 as listed at the Starry Night Store!


  • Planetary Texture Collection offers up to 100 planet and moon maps showing rock and element locations, mineral composition, chemical distribution, gravity, magnetic field, notable topographic features, and much more
  • All Sky Survey Images from Planck, IRAS-COBE and 2 Micron reveal a dramatically different view of our sky and let you explore the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang.
  • Improved Telescope Support.
  • Expanded asteroid catalog with highlighted/highlightable families and groups.
  • Updated Equipment List includes the latest telescopes, eyepieces, and accessories.
  • Analemma can now be drawn on a planets surface
  • Exclusive Extragalactic 3D Database includes over 200,000 galaxies encompassing over 1 billion lights years of space
  • New Photorealistc Horizon Panoramas make you feel like you are there.
  • All known exoplanets as 3D bodies with proper location, size, orbit and planetary texture
  • Stunning new user interface with Universal Search, locates sky objects, favourite files, SkyGuide pages, options, events, and more.
  • New highly detailed surface textures of planets and major moons
  • All stars accurately rendered as 3-dimensional bodies with classification-appropriate color, texture and relative radii.
  • Expanded set of “Space Missions” including 30 new detailed and accurate 3D models of spacecraft and their trajectories. Updates to new/ongoing missions.
  • The most precise planetary positions available (using Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL-DE-422 ephemerides.)
  • 3500 unique object text descriptions for stars, planets, moons, satellites, exoplanets, space missions, deep sky objects and, more.
  • Restyled SkyGuide with updated tours and media
  • Advanced Planet Rendering for terrain shadows, specular reflections on water, and city night lights on dark side (Earth only).
  • Updated Messier catalog with new visually stunning images for star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.


Other Features found within Starry Night Pro Plus 7:

  • Zoom in on the first-ever color All Sky CCD mosaic of the entire sky, to magnitude of 14-15
  • Connect to MaxIm DL to take pictures with your telescope and camera and import them into Starry Night*
  • Observational Planner
  • Ephemeris Generator
  • Graph Tool
  • Improved Telescope Control
  • Equipment List
  • FOV Indicators
  • Image Editor
  • Hertzsprung-Russell-Diagram
  • 180 degrees field of view
  • Advanced Guides (hour Angle, Precession, Galactic/Extra-Galactic)
  • Path Options (Celestial and Local Paths)
  • Orbit Editor
  • Night Vision
  • Advanced Light Pollution Settings
  • Location Markers and Surface Feature Outlines
  • 12 Milky Way Spectrums
  • Travel in time from 99,999 BCE to 99,999 ACE
  • Millions of DeepSky Object Databases
  • Explore 16 million stars
  • Celestial Event Finder

  • Starry Night Companion, a 192-page illustrated astronomy book PDF (embedded within the program)
  • New, comprehensive 146-page User’s Guide PDF (embedded within the program)


The Starry Night Pro Plus 7 software is now available at the Starry Night Online Store.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/starry-night-pro-plus-7-released.html

Mar 15 2014

Starry Night Pro 6 for Serious Amateur Astronomers

Starry Night Pro Astronomy Software

It has been some time since I posted, weather has been absolutely lousy for viewing. I spent the last week prepping and  moving my blog files and settings to a new server. I still have some server side file clean up to work on over next few weeks, along with much required maintenance on old broken url links.  If you have a blog site, I recommend you periodically run a url check on your site, you may be surprised at the volume of broken links which accumulate over time.

I hear many people at the forums asking what software they like for planning and telescope control.  I have been pondering a series of articles covering various aspects of my favorite planetarium and telescope control hardware, Starry Night Pro Version 6.4 for some time.  I will be posting several more in depth articles on Starry Night Pro in coming weeks which will highlight various features found within the software which I use frequently.

I was first introduced to Starry Night software in 2001-2002 timeframe, shortly after being introduced to the world of astronomy.  Starry Night Pro 6 is my mainstay and Swiss Army knife of observing tools; always running when I am sitting in the control room. I use Starry Night Pro to preplan all of my imaging targets and for goto control of my imaging mount on pier at the time.  The amount of custom configurations available within the software is outstanding.

The Starry Night software series comes in several offerings: Starry Night Enthusiast 6, Starry Night Pro 6, and Starry Night Pro Plus 6.  I would only recommend the Pro or Pro Plus versions to fellow amateur astronomers who are looking for a feature packed astronomy planetarium bundle.  I do not think it would be fair to judge the Pro series if one has only been exposed to the Enthusiast Edition of Starry Night 6.  The difference between enthusiast edition and pro editions is huge.

Starry Night Pro 6 is packaged with an abundance of handy astronomy tools. It includes a vast list of highly configurable and customizable features and settings, which I will cover in greater detail in future articles.  I own two telescope mounts, CGEM and the Meade LX-200 12″ GPS, both are easy to control using Starry Night Pro.

I have used the popular program Stellarium, but just could never sink my teeth into it, it worked great, but lacked the features I enjoy in SNP.  My favorite feature is the ability to maintain an inventory of my astronomy hardware within SNP.  This makes if easy to see exactly how my images will look based on inventory of gear I own.  Inventory such as telescopes, binoculars, mounts, focal reducers, eyepieces, imagers, and more can be quickly added to Starry Night Pro.  Many of these items are already listed on a master hardware database included with the software.  This makes it very easy to see how an image will look using the  gear I own.  I use this feature when looking at potential imaging targets, it gives me the ability to quickly compare FOV and framing of objects in orientation best covering my imaging chip based on actual gear found on my master inventory list.

Keep an eye out for more in depth articles covering some of the features of Starry Night Pro which I use here at my private home observatory in coming weeks.  A brief overview of Starry Night Pro features is highlighted below, for a full range of information on the Starry Night Software choices, I suggest one begin at the Starry Night Software comparison page.


  •   Explore over 16 million stars and 1 million deep-sky objects
  •   Travel through 3D, particulate galaxies
  •   Control most popular computerized telescopes
  •   See the sky from any location in the universe up to 700 million light years away
  •   Travel in time from 99,999 BC to 99,999 AD
  •   View Milky Way in 12 wavelengths, from infrared, radio to X-ray
  •   Deepen your explorations and understanding of the universe with over 100 interactive multimedia SkyGuide tours
  • More:

    • Seamlessly download data for 500+ million stars
    • Explore PGC Catalog of 980,000 galaxies
    • View Zwicky catalog of 9134 clusters
    • Select objects from dozens of databases for double stars, quasars and pulsars
    • Automatically download Digitized Sky Survey images
    • 65 3-D Asteroid Models let you explore these intriguing celestial bodies
    • Display dynamic Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams
    • Recognize 1000+ craters, valleys and more instantly with surface feature outlines for the Moon
    • Hour Angle Lines and Vernal Equinox Hour Angle Guide
    • Shadow Cones show the shadows of orbiting bodies
    • SkyView Link in Image Editor Downloads Thousands of New Images
    • Advanced Particle Galaxy Rendering
    • Apollo Space Missions: trajectories of the Apollo spacecraft, full models and guided tours
    • Distance Spheres can now be added to any solar system body with any radius and color
    • Precessional paths of the celestial poles
    • Circumpolar regions, based on your latitude
    • Meteor Showers Updates
    • Extrasolar Planet Updates
    • Observing Lists of astronomical objects use flexible filters such as magnitude, altitude above horizon, type, or database
    • Mimic effects of the atmospheric scattering
    • Follow the paths of over 25 interplanetary probes through the solar system
    • Zoom in on 3-D models of comets, asteroids, satellites and spacecraft
    • Over 100 Starry Night files demonstrate events such as eclipses, planetary alignments and close-ups of galaxies and planets
    • Create custom constellation sets
    • Export positional data for any object over a specific time span and interval from Ephemeris Generator
    • Create QuickTime VR movies
    • Build your own databases
    • Print full sky (180-degree) star charts of any area of the sky

Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/starry-night-pro-6-for-serious-amateur-astronomers.html

Dec 23 2013

A Few Facts About the ISS

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from DaltonSkyGazer Observatory.  I have posted two of my favorite pictures of the International Space Station below.  Image Credit NASA.  The ISS is an incredible engineering accomplishment. I thought I would post these pictures up with Christmas and the New Year in mind. We will be celebrating Christmas while the astronauts on board the ISS will be hard at work making repairs to the space station.  A few quick facts about the ISS:


1.  The International Space Station is about the size of a football field in length and width including the end zones.

2.  The ISS weighs in just under 1 million pounds at 924,739 lbs.  The same weight of approximately 320 automobiles.

3.  To support assembly of the ISS the total amount of time astronauts spent in space is equivalent to approximately 46 days.

4.  The solar arrays on the ISS takes up about 1 acre of space and can generate up to 90 KW of power.

5.  There are a total of 52 computers controlling systems on board the ISS.

6. Fifteen nations partnered to build the space station

7.  The ISS circles the earth once every 92 minutes at a speed of 17,500 mph or 4.7 miles per second.

8.  The crew experiences 15 to 16 sunsets a day.

9.  Assembly of the ISS took 13 years.

10.  The first component of the ISS which was built by Russia was launched on November 20, 1998.

11.  136 missions were flown to support building the ISS. Seven types of launch vehicles were used.

12.  211 people have visited the ISS so far.

International Space Station                Image Credit NASA

International Space Station
Image Credit NASA

International Space Station as seen from STS-134 while undocking. Image Credit NASA

International Space Station as seen from STS-134 while undocking.
Image Credit NASA


Credit: NASA http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/onthestation/facts_and_figures.html

Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/a-few-facts-about-the-iss.html

Aug 09 2013

Explora Dome Observatory Review


Looking to the Southern Sky at DaltonSkyGazer Observatory.

I frequently receive emails asking me for feedback and information about my Explora Dome observatory manufactured by PolyDome.  Since their original introduction to the public in 2006, PolyDome has become a very well recognized dome manufacturer within the amateur astronomy community.  The 8 foot dome I own was bought used, one of the first prototype Explora Domes produced.



DaltonSkyGazer 8ft Explora Dome observatory sitting on a 10ft homemade round building with attached heated control room.

Explora Dome brings the cost and convenience of dome ownership down to a price range affordable to many amateur astronomers without sacrificing on quality.  The Explora Dome has many accessories available, several found only in high end dome observatories.  The accessories and offerings include various building configurations, roof panels, doors, even full dome automation hardware.  One of the latest accessories offered is the aluminum wheel ring and upgraded wheel set which allows for extremely smooth and quiet dome rotation.  The 8 ft Explora Dome is also available in several colors.   A larger 11 ft dome offering,  the ED II was introduced to the product line not too long ago.

Meade 12" LX-200 GPS

Meade 12″ LX-200 GPS on pier in 8ft Explora Dome at DaltonSkyGazer Observatory

The Explora Dome is manufactured from polyethylene, a very durable and highly impact resistant material.  I believe the material will hold up well to the outdoor elements, based on several years of ownership.  Leaks have not been an issue in the 3 years my observatory has been up.  The observatory has experienced hail and sustained wind gusts in excess of 60 mph on several occasions.  I installed an interior tie down system to the dome which I attach when the dome is not in use.

The Explora Dome requires very little maintenance beyond a power washing once or twice a year to remove pollen and any mold which may have shown its face on areas not exposed to the sun. The cleaning can easily be accomplished using just a garden hose and scrub brush.  I power wash the exterior of the observatory once per year with a mix of bleach, detergent, and water.  The annual cleaning takes me about one hour to complete.  The dome still looks practically brand new after three years exposed to the New England elements.

I live in New England where frequent heavy snow and ice storms occur in the wintertime.  I was worried about keeping up with snow and ice removal.  The observatory has been through several severe winters now, I have found that it sheds snow and ice remarkably well.  I spend less than ten minutes each snowstorm clearing the observatory of snow or ice, it literally slides right off the observatory with little effort.


There are several benefits of owning a dome over a roll off roof observatory.

1.  Dew heating system is usually not needed at all in a dome observatory

2.  The dome protects the scope from wind

3.  The dome helps to protect the telescope from indirect and direct light if you are located in a neighborhood

4.  The dome sheds snow better than a flat roll off roof.

5.  Come on…. :)  A dome is just too cool!  When we think of observatories we think of domes!!


My 8ft Explora Dome was installed on a custom built 10ft round building and includes a small heated control room comfortable for two people attached to the dome building.  The dome area can hold about 6 people comfortably.  The Explora Dome can be purchased with a round or square building option, or one can install the dome on any custom built structure they dream up.  PolyDome even offers free blueprints with building instructions available for download at the Explora Dome website allowing you to build a 10 by 10 structure before you receive your dome.  It would be very easy to modify this blueprint to create your own customized observatory plan.

I did have one occasion in the past where I needed support for the Explora Dome, customer service was fast.  I had a minor issue with the shutter hanging up and binding which was responded to within 24 hrs.  Dan from PolyDome provided a quick and lasting solution to my shutter issue, this issue was common to the first prototype domes.  The fix took 5 minutes and the shutter has worked effortlessly since.  Explora Dome also has a Yahoo User group online which is a very helpful resource for owners and perspective buyers.

Heated Control Room at DaltonSkyGazer Observatory

Heated Control Room at DaltonSkyGazer Observatory

I believe PolyDome has revolutionized the dome observatory market with the Explora Dome offering.  They have made improvements to the original design over the past few years, paying close attention to customer feedback.  The 8 ft Explora Dome is a high quality and durable product priced at a range favorable to most amateur astronomers.  I would highly recommend this product to anyone who is looking to build a dome observatory in the future.

If you are looking for a larger observatory you may also want to look at the Explora Dome II from PolyDome.  The ED II is an 11ft dome, the largest offering from PolyDome.

Explora Dome II by PolyDome The largest dome (11ft) offering from PolyDome

Explora Dome II by PolyDome
The largest dome (11ft) offering from PolyDome
Image Courtesy of Dan@PolyDome









Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/explora-dome-observatory-2.html

Page 1 of 1812345...10...Last »