SkyMap Pro 8
This page describes in detail the new features in SkyMap Pro 8, and will be of particular interest to existing users of older versions of the program.
SkyMap's main "star charting" catalog is now the European Space Agency's "Tycho 2" catalog. This contains highly accurate position, magnitude, and colour index information for more than 2.5 million stars, compared with the 1 million stars contained in the original Tycho catalog used by the previous versions of SkyMap. The Tycho 2 catalog is complete down to about magnitude 11.5 - a gain of about 1 magnitude over the original Tycho catalog. The magnitude system used by Tycho 2 is also much closer to the standard "visual" magnitude system, so it should now be possible for variable star observers, for example, to directly use star magnitudes displayed by SkyMap to make magnitude estimates for variable stars, something which could not be done with the older Tycho catalog.
SkyMap's main "deep sky" catalog is now Wolfgang Steinicke's "Revised NGC/IC Catalog", containing information for about 13,000 objects contained in the NGC and IC catalogs. This new catalog provides a dramatic improvement in both the "completeness" and the accuracy of the display of deep sky objects in SkyMap; every object in the catalog has been compared to photographic images, and the nature of the object, the position, the magnitude, the size, and the position angle checked and (if necessary) updated. The result of Mr Steinicke's work is that a large number of objects previously missing from SkyMap's charts are now present, and the position and descriptions of large numbers of deep sky objects are now significantly more accurate than before.
The Saguaro Astronomy Club (SAC) catalog forms SkyMap's main source of information for those deep sky objects not present in either the NGC or IC catalogs. It has been updated to version 7.2, which fixes a number of significant errors which were present in previous versions of the catalog.
The version of the Washington Catalog of Double Stars used by SkyMap has been updated from the 1996 to the 2001 version of the catalog, adding a large number of new double stars and significantly improving cross-referencing with other catalogs.
Stars can now optionally be labelled on the star chart with their double star "name list designations", and the program now uses this designation as the star's identifier in preference to its Tycho catalog number. This is of significant benefit to double star observers.
The "Fifth Catalog of Orbits of Visual Binary Stars" has been added to the program, containing orbital information for almost 1500 binary star systems. When information on one of these stars is displayed, SkyMap now computes the position angle and separation of the binary from the orbital elements. The orbital data, if present, is displayed on the star's information dialog.
Both the deep sky and star search dialogs now "remember" the previous 100 objects searched for in a drop-down list. This makes it much easier to re-select frequently observed objects.
The search field on the main toolbar has been changed from a simple text box to a "drop down list" which automatically stores the last 100 objects searched for, automatically saving them between runs of the program. This makes it a lot easier to locate frequently observed objects.
The "Tools" menu now has an "Add-Ins" submenu allowing the user to execute up to 10 different external programs or Internet URL's from within SkyMap. These can either be straightforward program names or URL's, or can have "command line parameters" supplied by SkyMap such as the map's RA/dec coordinates, the observation time or date, or the observer's location. This feature has a huge number of possible applications, ranging from providing a quick method of starting-up programs which you run alongside SkyMap, to automatically displaying a "Digitized Sky Survey" photographic image of the object in the centre of the current star chart.
Frame annotations no longer have a 17 degree size limit, as was previously the case. The previous limit was not a problem for photography through a telescope, but meant that frames representing the field of view of normal camera lenses couldn't be displayed on the map. This limitation has now been removed, and frames of any desired angular size can be displayed.
There are many situations in which SkyMap loads and saves different types of file - eg satellite orbital elements, data catalogs, and map overlays, to name but a few. The program now remembers the directory from which each of these different file types was last loaded or saved, and goes back to the same directory the next time a file selector is displayed for that type of file. This saves a lot of time if you store different types of SkyMap file in different directories, as many users do.
The "Search/List/Deep Sky Objects" menu item now lists objects from the target list catalog (if it's currently active), which it didn't previously do.
When "zooming in" to an area of the map by dragging a selection rectangle on the current map, the rectangle can now be started in any "corner" and then dragged in any direction. Previously, the selection rectangle could only be dragged "downwards".
New drivers have been added for the AstroPhysics range of "GTO" mounts, the Celestron NexStar GPS range of telescopes, and the Takahashi NJP digital setting circles.