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SkyTools 3 Secrets: Ten Useful Things Other Software Can't Do

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Many people assume that all the Major Astronomy Software Programs do pretty much the same things. But you may be surprised how far ahead SkyTools is of the other products in many key areas.

Ten Useful Things SkyTools 3 Does (Not Found in Other Major Products)

  • Fully Integrated Databases -- SkyTools draws the best data from multiple sources to create highly corrected databases for both stars and deep sky objects. Consistency, accuracy, speed, completeness, and optimized searching are the result. Most other software takes the data engine approach, where raw astronomical catalogs are overlaid on a chart or searched separately. This leads to many problems. The catalogs are often poorly cross referenced, are prone to errors, and the same object from different catalogs can appear on the chart at different locations. As a bonus, there is no need for large downloads after your purchase.  Learn more...

  • Smarter Planning -- Other products provide rudimentary planning that takes into account when twilight begins or ends and when the moon rises. But it is so much more complex than that. The best view of a deep sky object comes when it is high in the sky during complete darkness. But how high in the sky is good enough? And how dark? There is a tradeoff between these two things; when is the optimum moment? It won't matter if the moon is up if you are looking at Jupiter, but it may make seeing M101 impossible... or maybe not, depending on the location and phase of the moon. Only SkyTools uses a complex scientific model that takes into account all these factors. The result is much smarter planning, including true optimum times to observe and direct comparisons to other nights or conditions.  Learn more...

  • Visual Difficulty Ratings -- Objects are rated as "obvious", "difficult", "very challenging", etc, and it is surprisingly accurate. SkyTools leverages its scientific model to compute these ratings for your telescope and your conditions.  Not only is this useful in choosing targets, but you can readily compare ratings on different nights and under different conditions. 

  • Double-Star Splittability Ratings -- Star pairs are rated as "obvious split", "difficult", "challenging", etc. The author drew on his training as a professional astronomer, starting with the state of the art scientific models that predict how easily a pair of stars can be "split" in a given telescope, and adding his own refinements to create a new model that is second to none.  Not only is this useful in choosing pairs to observe, but you can readily compare ratings on different nights and under different conditions. 

  • Finder Charts -- In 1995 the SkyTools author developed a new kind of star hopping chart that involves three views centered on the target object, each providing context for the others. The key to these charts is that the magnitude limit and orientation of each view matches what you see with your naked eye, finding device, and telescope. This system takes the "hop" out of star hopping, eliminating the need for tedious placement of FOV circles. It provides a quick and simple way to navigate to even the most difficult objects. Accomplishing this requires a complex simulation involving your telescope, finding device, eyepiece, target altitude, and light pollution--something other software can't match. These charts have been tested on complete novices with great success and continuously refined for over 15 years.  Learn more...

  • All Double Stars Are Accurately Depicted on Charts -- only SkyTools allows you to zoom in to any double star to accurately see the individual component stars appear.  Even long period binaries with orbits are shown, drawn at their correct positions for the date.  If a component star is identified as a variable star in a catalog that component will be identified with this variable star data. This seems simple, but it is unique to SkyTools.

  • Imaging Session Planner -- (Pro) The focus of SkyTools imaging session planning is on helping you make the best imaging choices.  The imaging session planning tools suggest optimum sub-exposure times for image stacking, estimate the final signal-to-noise ratio, compute the number of stacked images required to obtain the desired signal-to-noise, and display the imaging quality as a function of time graphically.  Learn more...

  • One of a Kind Exposure Calculator  -- (Pro) It's not just about exposures. The Exposure Calculator is a sort of experimental laboratory that you can use to get the most out of your images without having to use your telescope time to do the testing. Throw your rules of thumb out the window! For example, how much longer do you need to expose to get the same SNR after the moon rises? Finding the answer is quite complex. It depends on how far away the moon is from the target and what its phase is; how much light pollution there is; what filter you are using; the focal length of your scope; the pixel scale and sensitivity of your camera, the surface brightness and color of your target, etc. The SkyTools Exposure Calculator takes all these factors into account to answer this and many other questions. 

  • Optimum Viewing Ephemeris -- A traditional ephemeris is a list of positions for a moving object at a set interval of time. SkyTools can do that, and some other software can as well. But SkyTools can do something no other software can: compute the true optimum time to view an object for any given night. So what if we could make a list of optimum times, one for each day? We would have an entirely new kind of ephemeris. As the object moves, the moon appears, twilight changes, etc, the optimum time is going to be different each day. And SkyTools lets you plot this ephemeris on a chart, indicating the position of the object, the date, and the optimum time. Let's say you wanted to follow a comet over a two week period while on vacation. This chart is all you'd need to bring with you. It tells you not only where, but when to look each night.

  • Truly Accurate Comet Data -- Other products simply pass on the raw orbit data from the Minor Planet Center. That works fine for plotting a position, but the magnitude estimates are often woefully out of date and there is no information about the diameter and degree of condensation (DC). But at Skyhound we monitor recent observations and update the magnitudes, coma diameters and DC. This information is easily downloaded from within SkyTools in the form of the "Current Comets" observing list that is ready for use in the planner. When it comes to the question of whether or not a comet is visible to you--something not nearly as simple as it sounds--SkyTools once again excels like no other.  Learn more...

These secrets are just the tip of the iceberg. Fact is, SkyTools is far ahead of competing products when it comes to useful tools for observing. They are not all the same.

Add to this, of course, the expected capabilities such as telescope control and observation logging.

Take the tour: the author demonstrates his unique and intuitive approach to observation planning