Celestial software; peer into the heavens, track Halley's Comet, and learn about the universe. (Special astronomy section) Russ Lockwood.
Astro Series and Cometwatch
Astroaid provides time/distance conversions for the serious astronomer and dedicated amateur astronomer. The documentation lists the Basic program.
Astrobase finds 300 deep sky objects in space. You can use it as a logbook and add objects to the database.
Astrocalc computes the basic astronomical data for the sun, moon, and planets. This hard core data is for the serious astronomer only. The documentation lists the Basic program.
Astrostell, the newest Basic program in the line, lists and plots 88 constellations. Unfortunately, it may be a bit too new, for in our copy, the text files were fine, but the plot portion of the program registered illegal function calls at line 3260 and 9008.
Cometwatch provides information about Halley's Comet, including orbit, composition, and when to look. It is functional but not spectacular.
System and Price: 64K IBM PC, Apple II, C64, C128; $31.95 each. Manufacturer: Zephyr Services 306 S. Homewood Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15208 (412)247-5915
Astronomy: Stars for All Seasons
Geared for grades 5 through 12, Astronomy plots 34 constellations in the sky and lets students observe seasonal changes. It is generally good, sometimes uneven, and a bit pricey.
System and Price: Apple II, C64, TRS-80 Model III and 4; $59.95 Manufacturer: Educational Activities 1937 Grand Ave. Baldwin, NY 11510 (516)223-4666
This compilation of programs from the book of the same name by Eric Burgess, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, provides programs to calculate moon and planetary information. A second disk holds time conversion, plot guide, and other assorted Basic programs for astronomers.
System and Price: Apple II, C64, Timex 2068; $29.95 per disk, $49.95 for both disks. Manufacturer: S&T Software 13361 Frati Ln. Sebastopol, CA 95472 (707)874-2352
Eclipse Map, Planetarium,
and World Map
Eclipse Map shows you the best spot from which to view a solar eclipse. The program draws a map of the world and places a line to mark the passage of the sun and moon.
Planetarium is an unsophisticated sky display program that takes 15 minutes to load on the Apple. Pass this one right by.
World Map draws a map of the world, divides it into day and night, and plots the movements of the sun and moon. It is not bad if you need this information.
System and Price: Apple II, C64; $23-$30 Manufacturer: charles Kluepfel 11 George St. Bloomfield, NJ 07003
This is a really nice program for tracking Halley's Comet. The graphics display plots the path of the comet through the solar system (heliocentric) and from the ground (geocentric). It provides the coordinates for comet watchers and prints out maps.
System and Price: 64K IBM PC; $36.95 Manufacturer: StarSoft P.O.Box 2524 San Anselmo, CA 94960 (415)456-1308
One of the better programs we reviewed, Halley's Comet by Eric Burgess, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, finds and plots the famous comet among the stars. It provides a wealth of information.
System and Price: IBM PC, TI Pro, C64, Timex 2068; $49.95 Manufacturer: S&T Software 13361 Frati Ln. Sebastopol, CA 95472 (707)874-2352
Journey To The Stars
Unlike other programs, which confine your viewing are to roughly half to two-thirds of the screen, Journey To The Stars uses the entire screen to display 48 constellations and 42 major stars against the background of 1400 stars. It is an excellent "view-oriented" program.
System and Price: 96K IBM PC; $60 Manufacturer: COMPress P.O.Box 102 Wentworth, NH 03282 (603)764-5831
A fairly interesting arcade-style space game requires players to demonstrate knowledge about planets.
System and Price: C64; $17.95 Manufacturer: MicroEd P.O.Box 44405 Eden Prairie, MN 55344 (612)944-8750 (800)MICROED
Public Domain Software
This series of five public domain programs is just the thing for those who want to take a low-cost look into astronomy. Constellations plots 30 of the brightest constellations. Astro Conversions converts azimuth coordinates to right ascension and declination. Sunrise calculates time of sunrise and sunset on any date anywhere in the world. Phases draws the phases of the moon (no craters) on any date. Planet Show, a very nice slide-show of the planets, displays an artistic rendition of images returned from planetary probes. And you can't beat the price.
System and Price: Apple II; $1 plus 5.25" disk Manufacturer: Ron Dawes 882 Chestnut Circle Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433
An older program (circa 1982), Saturn Navigator is designed by Wes Huntress of the Jet Propulsion Lab. It shows how spacecraft are maneuvered by letting you navigate from Earth to Saturn. It is rather complex, presents many technical concepts, and displays good graphics. Although not terribly exciting, it is somewhat interesting and challenging.
System and Price: 48K Apple+; $34.95 Manufacturer: Sublogic 713 Edgebrook Dr. Champaign, IL 61820 (217)359-8482
This home planetarium for your C64 finds and tracks constellations, planets, and other celestial objects. The text holds mostly dry facts, and you can print out the contents of the screen. The documentation is an excellent introduction to astronomy. Sky Travel is a very fine package.
System and Price: C64; $49.95 Manufacturer: Commodore Business Machines 1200 Wilson Dr. West Chester, PA 19380 (215)431-9100
Solar System Astronomy
Although the program claims to be geared for high school and college students, the rudimentary information within is better suited to third graders. Solar system Astronomy is colorful and well done, but the program offers only introductory information about planets, comets, the greenhouse effect, and other aspects of the solar system.
System and Price: 64K IBM PC; $30 Manufacturer: Cross Educational Software 1802 N. Trenton St. P.O.Box 1536 Ruston, LA 71270 (318)255-8921
Space Base and Halley Patrol
Spacebase displays the night sky, complete with 400 stars, nebulae, and other celestial objects. It is a rather nice sky display program at a reasonable price.
Halley Patrol provides an almanac and observing aid for seekers of the famous comet. For those who do not won an Atari, Urania sells a VHS, Beta, and 3/4" format video tape of the program in action for $27.95. The video may not rival MTV extravaganzas, but for the classroom, it is one of the most visual and least expensive ways to track the comet.
System and Price: 48K Atari; $17.95 and $19.95 Manufacturer: Urania Systems Box 4890 Richmond, VA 23220 (840)358-4715
This program lists stellar events on a month-by-month basis. StarCal II also displays a representation of the night sky on the screen for any time between 15,000 B.C. and 15,000 A.D. Overall, it is quite functional.
System and Price: 64K IBM PC; $39.95 Manufacturer: Software City P.O.Box 11082 Station H Nepean, Ont., Canada K2H 7T8 (613)225-1305
Starchart finds and plots 1660 stars, nebulae, and other stellar objects in graphic or tabular form. It calculates coordinates and has a print option. It is a well done package with a steep price.
System and Price: 64k Apple II, IBM PC; $52.95 Manufacturer: Visionary Software P.O.Box 1063 Midland, MI 48641 (517)835-9025
This program finds and displays 46 stars and 88 constellations. It includes an option to print out information and display.
System and Price: Apple II; $44.95 Manufacturer: Earl Enterprises 440 Harrell Dr. Spartenburg, SC 29302 (803)579-1305
This adventure game places you in command of a ship on an ecpedition to the Epsilon Eridani solar system to find the source of alien signals. You choose the crew and equipment and perform scientific experiments in the alien solar system. Star Search is an admirable classroom experience.
System and Price: Apple II; $45 Manufacturer: Earthware Computer Services P.O.Box 30039 Eugene, OR 97403 (503)344-3383
One of the more polishes astronomy programs, TellStar II plots planets, stars, the moon, and deep space objects. It displays the starfield, draws lines between stars to form constellations, and sends text and graphics to a printer. A set of five utilities provides astronomical conversions and data on the Solar System. We recommend a serious look.
System and Price: 128K IBM PC, 512K Macintosh, 48K Apple II; $79.95 Manufacturer: Spectrum Holobyte 1050 Walnut Boulder, CO 80302 (303)443-0191
The Halley Project
This is a game of solar system navigation. You must decipher clues, travel from Halley's Comet to a planet or moon, orbit, and land at secret bases on the various planets and moons. For example, on the second mission, you must land on a planet with no moons. The third mission requires you to land on a moon with an atmosphere. The documentation does not hold the answers--you must look them up in an outside reference source. You may learn a bit about the solar system, and you will definitely have some fun.
System and Price: C64, Apple II, Atari; $44.95 Manufacturer: Mindscape 3444 Dundee Rd. Northbrook, IL 60062 (312)480-7667
This quality program features a map of the night sky with magnification of up to 512x to provide a front row seat from which to view eclipses, stars, and other astral occurrences. Star location, distance, magnitude, and other galactic information are readily available.
System and Price: 64K Apple II; $49.95 Manufacturer: Lightspeed 2124 Kittredge, Suite 185 Berkeley, CA 94704 (415)486-1165
The Sky calculates the coordinates of planets, Messier Objects, sun, moon, and hundreds of stars. The 360-degree scroll is very nice, and the locate object feature is exceptional. You can even print the information. The Sky is definitely worthwhile for serious amateur astronomers. An 8087 coprocessor is recommended.
System and Price: 256K IBM; $60 Manufacturer: Computer Assist Services 1122 13th St. Golden, CO 80401 (303)277-1014
The Visible Universe
Initially available for the Wang PC and translated to the IBM PC, this Basic program provides a view of the sky and 300 objects. It has the capability to print out information. An upgraded version with 10,000 objects is plannes, to retail for $69.95.
System and Price: 256K Wang PC, IBM PC; $39.95 Manufacturer: R.W. Parker 1949 Blair Loop Rd. Danville, VA 24541 (804)799-1008
This utility program calculates the location of the sun, moon, and planets.
System and Price: C64; $19.95 Manufacturer: Michael C. Ciavola 6634 Montague St. Philadelphia, PA 19135
A series of eight program includes Astro-Utilities, Relativity, Planets, Orbit, Galaxy, Print Planets, Comet, and Almanac Generator.
System and Price: 16K Sinclair ZX81 and Timex Sinclair 1000; $9.95 and $11.95 Manufacturer: Robert C. Moler 5999 Secor Rd. Traverse City, MI 49684
Primarily for solar heating system installers, Sungraph calculates and graphs the position of the sun.
System and Price: TRS-80 Model I, III, and 4, IBM PC, Apple II; $49 Manufacturer: Solartek RD#1 Box 255A West Hurley, NY 12491