Astronomy software covers a wide range of educational programs and applications to make sky gazing easier and more successful. In addition to buying astronomy software, you can also make use of freeware programs available online for the computer-savvy astronomer.
Astronomy Software Types
Astronomy software is a broad term that refers to a number of different types of astronomy software that each has very specific functions:
- Planetarium astronomy software produces maps of the night sky that can be printed and taken to star watches. The best planetarium astronomy software can create sky maps for any location on the planet.
- Related to planetarium software are “object specific” imaging programs that focus on one specific celestial object, such as the moon, a planet or a nebula.
- Telescope control astronomy software refers to an application that allows the user to remotely control a telescope, which is especially important during astrophotography. Some of the best astronomy software allows users to control telescopes in professional observatories.
Other forms of astronomy software include:
- astronomy planners and viewing logs
- moon phase calculators
- moon, sun and planet rise calculators
- tools to align telescopes
- tools to diagnose problems with telescopes.
Astronomy Software Freeware
Amateur astronomers have a strong online presence and have produced a wealth of astronomy software downloads. Many of these software programs are freeware, meaning that they can be used without shelling out any cash.
However, keep in mind that care must be taken with online astronomy software. Freeware should always be scanned for viruses. Astronomy software downloads should only be used if you trust the software’s source. It’s not worth saving money on astronomy freeware if the software contains a computer virus.
Having said that, there are many helpful astronomy software downloads available that are free of spyware or viruses. The trick is to only download astronomy software freeware from reputable and trusted sites.
The most famous astronomy freeware is probably the SETI@home project. SETI@home (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) monitors radio waves for signs of extraterrestrial life. Needing more computer power than they had, SETI@home developed freeware that analyzes radio telescope receivers while the host computers are on but not in use.
Searching for the Best Astronomy Software
With so much astronomy software available as freeware downloads and commercial programs, finding the best astronomy software can be a challenge.
Hunting through astronomy software reviews can help you narrow your choices. Many Web sites offer astronomy software reviews. Astronomy magazines also offer software reviews on a regular basis.
The best astronomy software is easy to use, with intuitive controls and a clear function. Because not all astronomy software contains all the functions you may need, you may need to try out a few software programs before you find the one that works best for you.
When to Use Astronomy Software
Most astronomy software is best used on days when you aren’t sky-watching. Planetariums and sky atlases are ideal for those cloudy days when star gazing isn’t an option.
Other types of astrology software, however, are used out in the field. For example, software that controls telescope motors and webcams are often used for astrophotography.
Some of the best astronomy software is available on mobile devices, allowing users to access the program right in the field. Gamma setting programs can also dull computer screen lights for improved star watching.