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InfoAstroPlanner is a software application for Macintosh and Windows computers that facilitates astronomical visual observation planning and logging as well as control of Meade telescopes that use the LX200, LX200GPS or Autostar controllers, Celestron NexStar scopes, Astro-Physics GTO mounts, the Vixen SkySensor 2000 system , and several others. It also incorporates the Best Pair functionality for selecting optimum telescope alignment stars and tools for facilitating iterative and drift polar alignment via computer control of the telescope.

It is designed to enable the observer to set up a list of astronomical objects he/she wishes to observe. These are either entered manually, by lookup in the supplied database of astrometric catalogues (e.g. Messier, NGC, SAO, etc.), or by importing them from suitably formatted text files. Solar system objects are also supported (sun, moon, planets, comets and minor planets) and comet/minor planet orbital elements can be imported in the usual formats (from a range or sources including the ASTORB and MPCORB databases).

Once entered the user can select items from the list for observation. The application uses the current time and site information (including horizon obstructions) to compute the visibility of the objects, so that only the ones currently above the horizon need be chosen. Rise, transit and set times are also computed to assist in planning a nights observing. Other sophisticated algorithms are incorporated to show parameters such as optimal detection magnification.

One or more observations can then be logged. By specifying telescope, eyepiece, etc. from a user defined list, the effective focal length, magnification and field of view can be computed, displayed and logged as well as user notes.

The field of view of the telescope is also displayed in the form of a star chart and can be compared with the actual view through the telescope. Any or all items from the catalogues can be plotted, including over 3 million stars in the Tycho catalogue down to about magnitude 11. If you have a connection to the internet you can download an image of the current field of view from the DSS (Digital Sky Survey) for comparison purposes. You can also plot stars from the USNO A2.0 catalogue (with magnitudes down to 20) and on-line USNO B1.0 catalogue (over a billion objects with magnitudes down to 21+ )

An "all sky view" shows an horizon-to-horizon view of the current sky, the location of objects, alignment stars, etc.

The application also allows the telescope to slew to the chosen object at the click of a button. Also available (Macintosh only) is a voice command mode that allows the user to do certain commands using voice only - a great convenience in the dark... For example you can say "Slew to M45", "Slew to Andromeda galaxy", "Night vision on", "Local time", "Telescope altitude", etc.

Object lists can be imported from various text formats (including Autostar Tour files), and objects and/or observations exported to formats suitable for import to word processing software, spreadsheets or database applications. You can also export in ScopeDriver format or construct sophisticated Autostar Tour files.

Some PDA astronomical applications are also supported: AstroPlanner can prepare object lists for those applications and in some instances reimport observations.

AstroPlanner is designed for amateur astronomers, but professionals are also using it to plan observations for some of the largest telescopes on the planet and the Hubble Space Telescope...

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Astroplanner - Astronomical visual observation planning and logging - USA

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