Software / Computer -- PC Topics
Including Linux --page 2

MAPUG-Astronomy Topical Archive     AstroDesigns

SCSI Explained --3 parts 
Pictor 416/SCSI/WinXP Connection 
Substitute for Red Plastic on Laptop Display 
Astronomy Software Collection by Platform URL 
List of Astronomy Related Software with Version Updates Noted (outside link) 
MaxPoint Software Explained --3 parts 
ATC (Advanced Telescope Control) 2.0 Released 
ACP Observatory Control Software V3.2 Upgrade 
ScopeDriver 2.3.2 (Mac/Win) Released 
LX200 Control Centre Software 
Skymap 6 Utilities Programs URL 
Lunar Tracking Software URL 
LX200 Satellite Viewing Software --"Satellite Tracker"
Satellite Observing/Software URLs 
Satellite Software Recommendations 
Satellite Transits of Moon & Sun Resources 
Satellite-Tracking Power Supply 

LINUX Topics:  
    Linux and Telescope Control Software 
    Use of Linux in Astronomy 
    Telescope Programming Group 
    KStars Planetarium Software under Linux 
    LX200 and Linux 
    Xephem (star-charting, sky-simulating, ephemeris software) --link to outside page.
    Free Linux Desktop Planetarium/Telescope Software --6 parts 

Double Serial Cable 
Additional Serial Ports? 
LX200 Alignment Star List & The Sky 
Moon Pointing & Tracking Software 
Software for Determining Lunar Co-Longitude 
RS232 Grounding Problem 
AstroArt Software for Astrophotography 
Adaptec Alternatives 
UTC Display & NightVision Freeware Updated 
Help with RS232 Connection Problems 
Satellite Tracker Software Video 
Planetarium Software Compulation 
LAN construction, including by cable or wireless --see Remote Control topic

GoTo PC Software Topics  Page 1   Page 3


Subject: SCSI Explained --part 1 of 3  Top

From: Kevin Dougherty <>

Lou: let me try to help a bit:

1 - SCSI is a specialized type of interface to peripherals. It works with the Meade 416 and 1616 cameras and provides a much faster transfer of image from the camera to your computer than a serial interface (which is the only other option with the Meade line). If you are not into the 416 or 1616 cameras, this is irrelevant since you can only communicate serially. Other cameras will sometimes use a parallel port interface (SBIG for example) which from what I understand has a good download speed.

2 - In order to use the SCSI interface, you need to have the proper adapter -- and for this you should only use what is recommended on the Meade site, since there are a number of compatibility issues you will want to avoid. You will also need a cable which is usually purchased separately.


Subject: SCSI Explained --part 2  Top

From: Chris Margaritis <>

SCSI stands for "Small Computer Systems Interface", and is a daisy-chainable I/O (input/output) protocol for computers and peripheral devices. This interface was championed by Apple for many years, and has slowly made its way into the PC arena. The interface is used mostly for high speed hard drives and scanners, but can support almost any device.

It is well implemented on the Mac, but can be buggy in the PC, as well as expensive. SCSI can be added to any PC notebook with PCMCIA expansion ports (PC Cards). Insight lists such a device for 169.99 (produce code #AD1480KIT).

For in depth info on SCSI check out:

Before parting with your hard earned cash, you might want to ask some experienced MAPUGers what the actual thru-put difference is between parallel port and SCSI CCD imagers, and then see if the added costs & hassle are worthwhile.

I use a Starlight Express MX5C with the parallel port enhancer, and I sure Wish it was faster.


Subject: SCSI Explained --part 3 of 3  Top

From: Colin Haig <> wrote:
>Also can anyone suggest exactly what I will need from the
>back of the scope to the computer.

Lou, I am assuming you are thinking of connecting the computer to the telescope, in addition to connecting the CCD camera to the computer. Kevin offered a good explanation of SCSI.

Here's a simple (but a bit lengthy ! -- sorry ) description of how it works at the high school observatory that I get lucky enough to use from time to time.

The Meade LX200 scopes, and some of the other telescopes have an RS-232 serial port on them, which you would connect to a COM port on your PC. This lets you use software like Earth Centred Universe (ECU) or Software Bisque's The Sky to control the telescope. You get a star map on the screen, click on the object you want to see, and the telescope moves to it.

Most PCs have 2 of these COM ports (also known as RS-232 ports, or serial ports). Some PCs can have up to 4 serial ports, which are designated as Com1, Com2, Com3, and Com4 respectively. Generally, you need one to control the telescope, and one to control the CCD camera (depending on the make and model of the camera).

Computer Com1 serial port ----------- LX200 Telescope RS232 connector

Computer Com2 serial port ----------- 208XT CCD Camera RS232 connector

When we want to use the 208XT to auto-guide the telescope (make automatic adjustments for slight errors in tracking the stars), there is another cable that goes from the CCD camera CCD autoguider output to the telescope's CCD autoguider input port.

So you end up with something like this:

Computer Com1 serial port ---------------- LX200 Telescope RS232 connector

Computer Com2 serial port ---------------- 208XT CCD Camera RS232 connector 208XT CCD autoguider connector ------ LX200 Telescope CCD autoguider connector.

When you outgrow the little 208XT camera, or wish to use it for autoguiding, you can get a 416XT or 1616XT camera. These cameras work with *your choice* of either RS232 ports or SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) ports. SCSI transfers 8 bits of data at a time over parallel wires, whereas serial ports transfer a single bit at a time, over just one wire. So, SCSI is generally a lot faster. So, that would be the best choice.

The catch is that most PCs don't have SCSI ports built in, so you have to buy a SCSI card and stick it in a slot inside your PC. Adaptec makes a SCSI card (models AHA-2940, AHA-2940UW) that works very well with the 1616XT. There are other brands and models, but this one is the "preferred" and "supported" variety.

Laptops suffer from the same problem - but they don't have slots inside. So, you have to buy a CardBus card that sticks into the side of the laptop. I believe the Adaptec 1480 is the supported one. (The old version of CardBus was known as PCMCIA - People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms)

So the bigger camera would use a setup like this:

Computer Com1 serial port ---------------- LX200 Telescope RS232 connector

Computer SCSI port =====thick cable===== 1616XT CCD Camera SCSI connector

The "complete" setup looks something like this:

Computer Com1 serial port ---------------- LX200 Telescope RS232 connector 208XT CCD autoguider connector ------ LX200 Telescope CCD autoguider connector. Computer Com2 serial port ---------------- 208XT CCD Camera RS232 connector Computer SCSI port =====thick cable===== 1616XT CCD Camera SCSI connector

and then you need to plug your mouse into a PS/2 mouse port, or USB keyboard, or add a COM3 to your computer by adding an add-in serial card to another slot inside the PC, unless its a laptop with a built-in mouse/trackpad thingy.


Subject: Pictor 416/SCSI/WinXP Connection    Top

From: Grant Blair <> Date: Jan 2002

Success! A couple of people emailed me privately with suggestions and those inputs, combined with an attitude of "surely it must be workable somehow..." led me to research how other peripheral vendors who relied on the ASPI interface have handled this situation.

The answer overall (but not from Meade, Microsoft or Adaptec) is that one _can_ install a version of ASPI on Win2k and WinXP Pro that does work with the 416!

Companies who make SCSI CD-writers and SCSI scanners have provided several links to versions of ASPI32 on their own and other (though again, not Microsoft's or Adaptec's) sites, at least one of which (4.60) actually works on XP Pro. It _did_ take a little fiddling with the pictor.ini file (in particular, setting the SCSI adapter number to 2), but I managed to come up with a stable configuration (Adaptec SlimSCSI 1480, Windows XP Pro, ASPI32 v4.60, PictorView 7.14) that results in the time between the shutter closing and the image being displayed being around 10 seconds.

Given the vast improvement over the previous (RS232) 75-80 seconds, I'm thrilled with it. If anyone has further tips on bringing that 10 seconds down to Meade's claimed "one second", I'd love to read them...


Subject: Substitute for Red Plastic on Laptop Display   Top

From: John Oliver <> Date: Feb., 2000

After trying various ways to reduce and redden the light from the displays at our telescopes, I have written a small Visual Basic application that changes Windows95/98 screen colors to dim red and gray. In addition it allows you to hide the desktop icons (whose colors can not be changed) and the taskbar. The app is available at:


You may be able to download just the .exe file but if your system need some of the Visual Basic support files you will have to download the .zip package.

Note: NiteView is deliberately not set "Always on Top" but if it is covered up by another app, altTab will bring up the items currently running and you can then move to NiteView.


Subject: Astronomy Software Collection URL    Top

From: Ed Stewart-AstroDesigns Date: Jan., 2000

Large collection of links to software downloads and sites organized by computer platforms:

Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


Subject: MaxPoint Software Explained --part 1 of 3  Top

From: Doug George <> Date: Jan 2004

Maarten Vanleenhove wrote:
> Does anyone has experience with Maxpoint and a classic LX200 ?

We used an 8" classic LX200 as the main test instrument when developing MaxPoint. We were able to get reliable 1-2 arc-minute errors. This instrument would miss the chip entirely on a 30 degree slew prior to using MaxPoint.

There is a major source of "non-repeatable error" in the LX200 due to declination backlash. We have an anti-backlash feature in MaxPoint that makes it always approach the target from the same direction. This significantly improves the pointing accuracy.


Subject: MaxPoint Software Explained --part 2  Top

From: Rod Cook <>

Maarten, I use it on a 12" Classic with PinPoint and Maxim DL. I like it very much! For me the greatest benefit comes during a session when the camera is attached and focused and I need to slew a rather length distance. With MaxPoint the object I desire to image is in the field of view of my 416 with 3.3FR. everytime. Prior to MaxPoint, I had to be more rigorous to plan my imaging in smaller slews to avoid removing the camera to locate and center the object.

I'll explain MaxPoint, but don't have any experience with T-Point or any other and I'm certainly not expert at this. But first I need to add a comment-- the 416 with 3.3FR gives me an image approximately 20x12 arc minutes in size. Most of the slews pre-MaxPoint would put the object somewhere in this field. With MaxPoint, the objects are nearly centered in the field which is an obvious improvement. Recently I have been trying to do imaging at f/6.3 and at f/10 and the pointing software has really helped moving between objects at these focal ratios.

MaxPoint works with Maxim DL CCD. I believe you must have this software to use MaxPoint. I'm sure someone will clarify anything I say that is not correct. You can calibrate the mount manually or automatically. Manual calibration uses an eyepiece and you to center the star in the field. Many stars over the whole sky visible to you are used for this calibration. I've done the calibration manually but it was awhile ago, but I believe once you center the star and key enter, the system slews to the next star and waits for you to center that star, and so on. You select the number of stars you want to use to calibrate.

The automatic calibration requires a CCD camera on the telescope and PinPoint software. If your not familiar with PinPoint, it is software that matches a CCD image to a database of stars of known position to determine the true center of the image. The difference between where the LX200 thinks it is pointing and the true center of the image is the pointing error. MaxPoint (working with Maxim DL CCD) slews the scope to various star visible in your sky, an image is taken and downloaded to Maxim DL CCD. The image is analyzed (solved) by PinPoint to determine the center of the image. MaxPoint records the pointing error in a table. You can select from 25 to 100 stars for the calibration. I selected a 25 star calibration and ended up with a calibration based upon around only 16 to 18 stars. I'm not certain why didn't get the full 25 but I suspect it is because my observing sight has trees that obstruct most of the horizon below 30 degrees and in a few spots up to 40 degrees. I can indicate to the software what the profile of these obstructions are to avoid trying to view stars that can't be seen. A calibration with only 16 to 18 stars greatly improved the pointing. I don't know if doing a 100 star calibration would make the pointing even better...I've not done this extensive of a calibration (yet).

My scope is permanently mounted. Therefore I don't have to repeat the calibration each observing session. But if your setup is portable, the calibration would need to be done each time. Appears a 25 star calibration would be sufficient. My auto-calibration took around 20 to 25 minutes. My system downloads the images via serial communication. I don't remember if the images were taken at full resolution or binned at 2. But for my system the download time is the rate determining process. The manual calibration is somewhat more time consuming but I expect with practice the procedure could be accomplished fairly quickly. A good time to do this calibration is during twilight while your waiting for the sky to get dark.


Subject: MaxPoint Software Explained --part 3 of 3   Top

From: Doug George

Rod Cook wrote:
> MaxPoint works with Maxim DL CCD. I believe you
> must have this software to use MaxPoint.

... and I will clarify. You only need to have MaxIm DL/CCD if you want to use the auto-calibration feature, where it automatically maps the mount errors. It's needed to run the CCD camera. If you don't mind manually centering a bunch of stars during the calibration process, you don't need MaxIm DL/CCD.

Once you have the mount errors mapped, you can run it with any program that supports ASCOM, including Desktop Universe, MaxIm DL/CCD, Starry Night, TheSky, SkyMap Pro, etc.

> My scope is permanently mounted. Therefore I don't have to repeat the
> calibration each observing session. But if your setup is portable,
> the calibration would need to be done each time. Appears a 25 star
> calibration would be sufficient. My auto-calibration took around 20
> to 25 minutes.

For a portable setup, you can do a one-time full calibration run with many stars. Then, for subsequent sessions, you can do a "Recal Portable" run, and use only 6-12 stars. This speeds up the process quite a bit.


Subject: ATC (Advanced Telescope Control) 2.0 Released  Top

From: Salvo Massaro <> Date: Feb 2003

ATC 2.0 (Advanced Telescope Control) is now available:


Subject: ACP Observatory Control Software V3.2 Upgrade

From: Bob Denny <> Apr 2004

DC-3 Dreams, SP is pleased to announce a major upgrade to ACP Observatory Control Software, Version 3.2. ACP is a complete observatory automation package designed to make using your advanced observatory very simple, without micro-managing your instruments. It is compatible with virtually any go-to mount and CCD imager.

No scripting knowledge is required. ACP includes optional built in browser access using internal web and FTP servers. Check out the complete feature list, new things in this release, and other information at:
<> and <>

Please note: In order to use ACP, you need to have a CCD camera and the MaxIm DL Image Processing Software, version 3.22 or 4.0. If you own a license for any MaxIm DL V3.x version, the upgrade to MaxIm DL 3.22 is free.


Subject: ScopeDriver 2.3.2 (Mac/Win) Released

From: Stephen Hutson <> Date: Dec 2005

Just a quick note to announce that ScopeDriver 2.3.2 has been released. Here's a link to the main page:
Download link: <>

And here's a page that discusses the new release:


Subject: LX200 Control Centre Software

From: Stuart <> Date: Aug 2004

The latest version of Meade LX200 Control Centre (v 2.45) has just been launched. It controls all of the functions of the LX200, integrates with Maxim DL/CCD as well as the Meade electric focusser.

Please goto: <> for a demo version, full documentation and more.


Subject: Skymap 6 Utilities Programs URL  Top

From: Henrik Persson Date: March, 2000

I have written two utilities for Skymap Pro 6:

  • The first makes it possible to do animations in Skymap.
  • The second will go to a web- or ftp-site, download orbital elements for comets, satellites and/or asteroids. After downloading it will configure Skymap to use the new files.

Both programs have some limitations, however. You can read about that and download the programs for free from my homepage at:

Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


Subject: Lunar Tracking Software URL   Top

From: James Burrows Date: March, 2000

Scott Rosenberg wrote:
>57.9 Hz Lunar rate; Best for tracking the Moon.

That's the average lunar rate in RA. The current rate depends quite a bit on the azimuth of the Moon because the observer is whizzing (almost supersonically, right?) around the Earth's spin axis. I reved up my moon2 program and it said the current rate was 57.3 (with the Moon below the horizon) and declination rate -1.2% of sidereal. Changing the PC clock time to 23:00 with the Moon near upper transit, the lunar RA rate increased to 58.5. If anyone's interested in this niche of LX200 lore, the lunar pointing and tracking program "moon3"is at:

Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


Subject: LX200 Satellite Viewing Shareware --part 1 of 3  Top

From: Brent Boshart <> Date: Oct, 2002

I created a Satellite Tracking program for the LX200 ($20). It can be downloaded at:


Subject: LX200 Satellite Viewing Shareware --part 2   Top

From: Paul Goelz <>

>I created a Satellite Tracking program for the LX200 (freeware).
>Please give some feedback and ideas for other software.

And by GAWD, it works! I downloaded the program and a fresh set of TLEs (two-line elements) and had a go. Set up my LX200 with a video camera on the prime focus and another on a 230mm finder lens. Didn't have much luck with the geostationary sats, but was about 95% successful with the lower altitude birds. With only a careful tripod leveling and a one star alignment, I got every single bird in the finder view, and all but two in the prime focus view. Unfortunately, one that was just outside prime focus was Mir. Wanted to see if I could resolve any detail.

A quick list of observed sats:
Mir, Cosmos 1908, Iridium 3, 26 and 49, Orbitcom FM25, SL-8 R/B, Picosat 6, Globestar M51, Exos D (Akebono).

The program allows various filters to be set to select which sats are viewable, has a real time moving world map of the selected sat, will predict future passes, shows all relevant data on the selected sat (except predicted magnitude), shows the distance to go on a slew, and has two tracking modes...continuous and leap frog. Continuous on the LX200 is a variation of leap frog where the scope moves in smaller amounts more often. About twice the FOV of my main camera per jump. Editorial Note: since Paul's comments the software has been updated to make the tracking very smooth rather than the previous leap frogging.

Related topics:

Subject: Satellite Observing/Software URLs --part 3 of 3 Top

Learn more about satellite observing from:
    <> software to simulate the position of the International Space Station.
    <> Ultra Fast Tracking System software link.


Subject: Satellite Software Recommendations

From: Bevan Harris <> Date: May 2003

There is a (postcardware) satellite tracking program, Orbitron, that I use and that I find to suit my purposes admirably. The author's website is <>. The site itself is currently having hosting problems and only has the download available (1.6MB), but I suspect this will be fixed soon.

Another fun freeware program for cloudy nights is Celestia. Not exactly a satellite tracking program, but it does allow some pretty funky modelling of this and other star systems. Planetary satellites can include spacecraft (such as HST, ISS & Mir). Custom objects (e.g. Tatooine, Endor and the Death Star) are available or can be created so you can let your imagination run riot.


Subject: Satellite Transits of Moon & Sun Resources Top

From: Dale Chatham <> May 2004

For those who are interested in satellite transits of the moon and the sun, here's a few links to support seeing such a thing.

One can sign up for e-mailing of ISS transits which are within a configurable distance from a point you specify. Some good pics, as well:

Introduction: <>
Subscriber page: <>
WorldView software: <>
Plotting the transit tracks: <>
Macro Express macros (see above link): <>


Subject: Satellite-Tracking Power Supply Top

From: Rob Preston <>

  1. Make regulated 12v and 5v power supplies for the following using a couple of three-terminal regulators on the output of a bridge rectified 12v transformer.
  2. Get a cookbook circuit for a push-pull power op-amp chip, and also buy the chips. Need about 1-amp capacity for each LX200 motor.
  3. Rip apart two analog joysticks of the type used for video games; set one of them up as zero-to-one volt voltage dividers (fine control) set the other up as a zero-to-ten volt voltage dividers (coarse control)
  4. Set up a 555 timer chip operating at about 500-800 Hz, stable.
  5. Buffer the outputs of all the controls with 741 op amp buffers.
  6. Add the outputs of the fine controls, coarse controls, and timer using two 741 adders (one for altitude/dec, the other for az/RA), and feed those control voltages to the power op-amps.
  7. Install a "satellite" vs. "internal" switch or relay to switch the LX200 motors between the external and the stock power supply, depending on whether you're looking at stars or birds/satellites.
  8. Reroute the cables to the DEC and RA motors, behind and on the front power panel, to the switch or relay.
  9. Mount the "coarse" Joystick on the left fork arm, and the "fine" joystick on the right fork arm, using a short support board and some holes drilled in the fork arms.
  10. Plug it in, and trim the joysticks for zero motion using the trimmers on the joysticks.
  11. Focus a 300x eyepiece on a test star, and attach a piggy-back reticled non-inverting finderscope (I use a 35mm SLR with a 300 mm telephoto lens and bullseye focusing screen).
  12. When the satellite appears above the horizon, the joysticks can be set to first center the object in the finder, and then track it in the finder by setting the two sticks at the correct positions to bias the motors' rates.
  13. Immediately move your eye to the main, 300x, eyepiece, and fine-tune the fine joystick to maintain the object in the field of view.

There's some real obvious periodic error while tracking a jetliner at 35,000 feet at 300x, but this can be partially compensated with the "fine" joystick.

With a Low-Earth-Orbit satellite like the Shuttle or Mir, the event only lasts about two minutes from sighting to disappearance. I got to see Mir once or twice at 220 power, barely enough to glimpse the rough shape, but then I took the thing apart for modifications before I had become sufficiently adept at the controls to use 300 or 400x. It's like a video game - takes some practice.

If I ever find time, I'll draw the circuit and post it to a web site, but really it's just a bunch of cut-and-try, about like I described above, with radio-shack parts. Ron Dantowitz had much better success with an Archimage mounting and custom driver software....see the latest Sky and Telescope for his images of Mir and the Shuttle. He started with an LX200, but apparently he wanted to do the whole thing with software, and the resident LX200 command set doesn't allow for the continuously variable slew speeds that are required for this project. So he switched to the Archimage system. The "C-sat" satellite tracker program, with the LX200 leap-frogging along the path of a satellite, is the remnants of Ron's LX200 experiments.

What an analog, op-amp system really needs is a video-feedback signal added into the other control signals to eliminate the periodic error and the stress of tracking. It gets bad when you've gone to all that trouble and you lose sight of the satellite at 300x and have to go back to the finder to recenter, all in a space of a two minute fly-by. And the zenithal passes are killers, trying to keep both joysticks right as you're inching yourself around the tripod, bent over, with your eye glued to the eyepiece and sweat running onto it. You gotta be more than half crazy to do it manually.


Subject: LX200: Linux and Telescope Control Software   Top

From: Joe Hartley <> Date: June, 2000

Steve Havens <> wrote:
> I've just installed Linux on my Laptop and now I'm looking for Linux based
> Telescope Control Software for my LX200. Is anyone using Linux and if
> you are what are they using for a Telescope Control Software for the LX200?

As a star-charting software, XEphem is excellent, and there's an adjunct program for LX200 control. And, of course, it's free to download.
    Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


Subject: Use of Linux in Astronomy --part 1 of 3   Top

From: Bill Feiereisen <> Date: Jan 2003

I wrote much of this in response to individual queries about viruses, presuming that most list members work on Microsoft Windows. But then I realized that I was beginning to list the reasons why I spend most of my time on Linux and the reasons why I do astronomy stuff here. I have no vested interest in Linux, but it has proven more easily maintainable and safer and more stable than Windows. Caveat: It does require quite a bit more knowledge of computing and many things are still done by hand, but the wealth of available professional software and the ability to be able to modify it and/or write it on your own are phenomenal.

I suspect that the cornerstone of interest to this list is probably the XEphem planetarium/LX200-control program, but I included some other links below to many other pieces of software. These links just touch the surface. Much of the professional astronomy community work on various versions of Unix. Linux is close enough to Unix to take immediate advantage of much of this software. In addition, linux on PCs is quickly taking over the role of Unix desktop workstations simply because of costs and the wide support community that is available.

Note: clicking each link should open up a new browser window over this one.


There are several ways to run linux and windows apps on the same machine. You can load linux as the base operating system and use the windows emulator, "Wine" <> that comes with all distributions of linux and is probably installed automatically when you load the OS. This is an open source project that attempts to provide the functionality to windows to a windows app, but you are really running the app on linux. I hear that some windows apps don't work.

Or you can run virtual machine software like Vmware <> that provides an emulator of a another computer in software that you then load an OS into. For example you run windows on your computer, install Vmware as an app on top of Windows that provides you with a blank virtual software computer. Then you load linux as the OS for that blank software computer. I do this all the time and you don't have to wreck your windows machine to do it. You can also go the other way with linux as the base OS and windows running inside Vmware.

Or you can partition the disk into Linux and windows partitions and arrange for a "dual boot" where you choose which OS to boot when you turn on the physical machine. There are partitioning tools like "Partition Magic" that make this easy and safe. This is a very clean way to do this, but there are pitfalls in the disk partitioning. Once you get it right this is a good way to go, but you might wreck your data along the way if you make a mistake. Best to do this with a brand new computer that has no data on it, or reload data from backup if you wreck it.

Linux generally doesn't support the built in modems because they are the so-called "Winmodems." Linux would like to support them, but our good friends at Microsoft have pushed through a standard where most functionality for the modem is executed in software in the OS and they won't tell anyone how it's done. You'll have to buy a new modem that is not a Winmodem, either a PCI card for your desktop machine or a PCMCIA card for your laptop. There are plenty of these available but check before you pay for it.

Lastly, you can just install Linux as the OS and dispense with windows entirely. There are plenty of linux apps that provide the same services as the windows app and replace them. For example OpenOffice replaces Microsoft Office entirely and reads and writes Microsoft format files. There are some compatibility problems if you exchange files with friends who wrote their files on Microsoft machines. This is the primary reason why I still have windows machines ... (and games!) There are many e-mail programs that are as capable as the windows versions. There are sophisticated graphics programs and all that astronomy software such as XEphem. In addition linux is effectively UNIX which means that it comes with all the program development tools so that you can write your own programs in any programming language that you choose. They're all there as soon as you install the OS.

Astronomers in particular should know about Linux and how well suited it is for our work. ... and how close it is to a total replacement for Microsoft.


Subject: Use of Linux in Astronomy --part 2

From: Rod Mollise <>

Bill Feiereisen writes: I'd almost like to send this to the list, but I'd probably get flamed for sending off topic. Astronomers in particular should know about linux and how well suited it is for our work. ... and how close it is to a total replacement for Microsoft.

And it's about to get better. While I like XEphem OK, it's not really my cup of tea. HOWEVER. Patrick Chevalley is preparing a version of Cartes du Ciel for Linux right now...


Subject: Use of Linux in Astronomy --part 3 of 3  Top

From: Bill Arnett <>

Most of the advantages of Linux also accrue to Macintosh users, too. We are largely unaffected by the virus plagues. Mac OS X is, like Linux, a version of Unix and has most of the advantages thereof. Apple now has a free and very good X11 implementation which allows you to use Xephem, GIMP, OpenOffice, etc. And if you really insist, you can run Windows apps via an emulator.


Subject: LX200 and Linux   Top 

From: Michael Quaade Date: June, 2000

Someone inquired about using Linux to control a LX200. I have made a simple program to convert XEphem telescope output to LX200 commands. It only works with planets and fixed objects and does not precess to current epoch. Within these limitations, it works fine.

When this program is running simultaneously with XEphem, the "Set telescope" XEphem command button moves the telescope to the chosen position/object.

A more elaborate mechanism is made by the CAOS group - see:

<> Note: should open a new browser window over this one.

Their contribution contains also a software emulation of the LX200 handset.

I have tried to use their executable, but it stops with a "Segmentation Fault" on my system. I will try to compile it into the XEphem distribution instead of using a downloaded executable. I have had similar problems with "original" XEphem executables, so it is probably some library file location mismatch.

My program - xephem-lx200 - uses no XEphem or X libraries as it simply makes a formatting of the XEphem coordinates to the format expected by the LX200. It is used to read data from XEphem telescope locate FIFO and writes to the port, where the telescope is connected like this example:

xephem-lx200 < /usr/local/lib/xephem/fifos/xephem_loc_fifo > /dev/ttyS0

This must be done in a loop in a shell scripts, as the FIFO is closed after each operation. The program or the user running it must have write access to the /dev/ttySX file of the chosen serial port.

My LX200 has software version 3.20 which uses decimal minutes - if later versions of LX200 software uses minutes and seconds, the program must be modified.

If any of you find it interesting, you are welcome to receive a copy - it is only about 120 active lines of C code.

See also these references:
  <> (XEphem)


Subject: Free Linux Desktop Planetarium/Telescope Software --part 1 of 6  Top

From: Ed Stewart <> Date: Mar 2004

Dale Chatham wrote:
It's free but there is a catch, it runs on Linux However, it rivals Starry Night Professional, and both it and the operating system are free. BTW, it runs faster on the same hardware than the WinXP/Starry Night combo.

The next release promises to be quite interesting--

Mickey McInnis wrote:
It's also on the Knoppix distribution: <>
Knoppix is a Linux CD. Download Knoppix, burn it to a CD, then when you boot your PC with the Knoppix CD in the drive, you have Linux running on your PC. It doesn't modify anything on your PC, so windows still works after you remove the knoppix CD and reboot your PC. Kstars (and Knoppix) is pretty impressive.


Subject: Free Linux Desktop Planetarium/Telescope Software --part 2

From: Sylvain Weiller <>

Visiting <> is a must after this discussion!


Subject: Free Linux Desktop Planetarium/Telescope Software --part 3  Top

From: David Moody <>

I have been using KStars for quite a while now (two of my machines are Linux boxes). It is an okay program for casual lookups of Messier and NGC objects, but the SAO star catalog just isn't deep enough.

You can also add custom catalogs, but you will need to put them together yourself (I haven't found any out in the public domain yet and am making a couple of my own).

It does have a few nice features, but it is also missing some key ones which really keeps me from using for any serious work.

The 3.2 version promises to be good, but it isn't available and the dates seem to be slipping (this is being programmed on some folks' spare time, after all). It should include the Tycho 2 catalog, which will make this more useful for deep sky observations. It will also add some other needed features. However, it will be necessary to upgrade to the new KDE version (3.2) to use this program. KDE is a windows manager for Linux (there are others also). That is a somewhat involved upgrade if you are on a lower version (I am on 3.1). But if you already have the 3.2 libraries or higher (which are only now being released), you will be in good shape for this.

Right now, I use it as my Linux version of the Starry Night Bundle edition (I use) to quickly reference major things in the sky for a given evening. Otherwise, it is Megastar and HNSKY for me.


Subject: Free Linux Desktop Planetarium/Telescope Software --part 4

From: John Mahony <>

Patrick Chevalley, author of Cartes du Ciel, is developing a Linux version of CdC.
See: <> Since the windows version is already very well developed (tons of features, many deep catalogs available, internet access for automatic updating of comet/asteroid elements, or downloading subfields of extremely deep catalogs, etc.), the Linux version should come together pretty quickly. The original windows version is at: <> Both are free.


Subject: Free Linux Desktop Planetarium/Telescope Software --part 5

From: Radu Corlan <>

There's also Xephem - a slightly less intuitive interface, but a very powerful program. Lots of catalogs available.


Subject: Free Linux Desktop Planetarium/Telescope Software --part 6 of 6  Top

From: David Moody <>

Radu, yes, I use Xephem for a lot of things. That is a good point. I wasn't really thinking of it when I was writing about KStars. I guess I kind of assumed everyone knows about Xephem, but you are right in pointing it out, because several folks don't know about it.

I don't really use it for deep sky planning or as a field atlas, however. It was really designed for solar system stuff (ergo its name) and also has some good AAVSO tools. I am not really a planet person nor have I gotten into variable star (yet), so I mostly use it as a quick numbers reference (way under utilizing it, I know).

It is really too bad that Xephem doesn't have better sky chart/atlas tools (I don't think the interface is counter intuitive, just clunky) since it does have several deep sky catalogs. But it is clear when you open the program that it is designed around the planets, which makes it great if you are tracking Jupiter's moons or solar transits. It also has a terrific global weather map for the Earth when you are hooked online.

There are several other excellent astronomy tools under Linux/UNIX (as I look at the moon phase gizmo in my toolbar). You can also control an LX200 with Xephem (and KStars now, as well, since I believe they are implementing a Linux ASCOM interface with the new version).


Subject: KStars Planetarium Software under Linux   Top

From: Jasem Mutlaq, <> Date: Aug 2003

I'd like to inform our Unix/Linux users about a software that gives you a fine control over your LX200 and LX200 compatible telescopes.

The software is called KStars <> and it is part of the KDE Desktop Environment under Linux. KStars is a free desktop planetarium with an easy and intuitive interface.
For screenshots, check: <>

I have been working with Elwood Downey, the author of the venerable Xephem, on adding astronomical instrumentation support to Linux.

Currently, KStars support the following telescopes:
   1. LX200 Generic
   2. LX200 Classic
   3. LX200 GPS (specfic GPS features supported)
   4. LX200 16"
   5. LX200 Autostar
   6. Astro-Physics AP
   7. Astro-Electronic FS-2
   8. Losmandy Gemini
   9. Mel Bartels' Controllers

Connecting to your telescope is a very easy process in KStars, you can either run the telescope wizard and it will connect and setup your telescope automatically or select the telescope from a menu and run it.

Here is a screenshot of KStars tracking the moon on my LX90:

You can issue simple Slew, Track, and Sync command from the sky map, and more advanced options are available from the INDI Menu:

Furthermore, KStars is network-transparent and is perfectly suited for remote control. Those features will be officially available once KDE 3.2 is released on December 2003. However, it would be _very_ helpful if some interested linux users would download the current KStars (CVS version: <>
and test the telescope control. You can report bugs, ask for more features/enhancements and more.


Subject: Telescope Programming Group --part 1 of 2  Top

From: Brent Boshart <> Date: Mar 2003

I have just started a new Yahoo group at:

Its purpose is to discuss issues with programming telescope interfaces. I find my questions in this area are usually not well answered in general astronomy forums.


Subject: Telescope Programming Group --part 2 of 2

From: Joe Shuster <>

You might also consider posting on the Yahoo ASCOM group. They limit the discussion to the development and use of ASCOM drivers. There might be a fairly large intersection in the interests of that group and your group. You should list the kinds of topics that you think are germane to each group.


Subject: Double Serial Cable   Top

From: Wesley Erickson <> Date: Sept., 2000

The RJ11 Line1 and Line2 (and optional Line1 + Line2) adapters would have to be rewired to support two serial ports on the LX200. Although the modification would not be difficult, it is definitely not "plug and play"...

Since these adapters are intended for phone lines, they typically only contain four conductors. The center pair is Line 1, the next pair "outward" is Line 2. Five conductors are required for two serial ports sharing a common ground.

Also, on the LX200, the second serial port requires the use of the pin on the extreme right (opposite side from the B+ pin). As a result, the easiest way to implement dual serial ports is to use a six-conductor cable plugged into the LX200 RS232 port and to split the cable at the "computer" end for two DB-9s.


Subject: Additional Serial Ports

From: Turgut Kalfaoglu <> Date: Jan 2003

From: Clifford Peterson <>
>I currently run two laptops with my classic LX200. One has MaxIm DL CCD
>for controlling the 416 via the SCSI adapter. The other runs The_Sky for
>telescope control using COM 1. I have downloaded FocusMax and it also
>wants a serial connection to the scope. Has anyone run a similar setup
>and if so how have you solved the apparent conflict between The Sky and

Cliff: If your laptop has a USB port, you can get a hub, and as many USB-to-Serial converters as you want. My laptop controls 3 such devices right now. The down side is, some converters freeze up when they encounter binary data; so you need to buy it on the condition that you can return if it doesn't work well for you!


Subject: LX200 Alignment Star List & The Sky   Top

From: Gene Hays <> Date: June, 2000

I believe that the Bisque site has just the 33 alignment stars and my web site has 251 of the 351 Meade stars and a method for using the star list in TheSky program.

   Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


Subject: LX200: Moon Pointing & Tracking Software   Top

From: James Burrows <> Date: Sept., 2000

The "Moon for Dummies" program has been updated, following the suggestions of John Kraieski, to be more friendly to CCD users. A SYNC button and focus controls have been added, plus a big, beautiful Full Moon image (thank you, John) which can be used to point the telescope at lunar features.

As before, the program shows librations and the Moon phase from your location. Either GOTO a selenographic position, or read out the position of the center of the telescope's field of view and the corresponding map section in Rkl's "Atlas of the Moon". Lunar tracking in both RA and DEC is implemented, which is significantly better than the LX200's built-in tracking.

After downloading and decompressing the file, run the executable (moon.exe) in the same directory, and click the "help" button, which will explain how to complete the installation and to use the rest of the program features. Download through my web site below, in the LX200 section.

Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


Subject LX200 Software for Determining Lunar Co-Longitude  Top

From: Wes Erickson <>

A Windows program for determining lunar co-longitude is located at:

This program was named the winner of the 1998 Computing Challenge of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, Computing Section.


Subject: RS232 Grounding Problem   Top

From: Doc G, Date: Sept., 2000

>> I'm having trouble with my LX200 RS232 port.
> Is the computer grounded to the same thing as the
> LX200 power ground? If it is, the "ground" from
> the LX200 port to the RS232 port on the computer
> might be a "ground loop" ... because of the LX200
> current sensor. The "ground" on the LX200 at the
> "RS232" port is not the LX200 power ground.
> It is probably better to use the LX200 port
> WITHOUT using its ground wire connection to the PC,
> and have the LX200 power ground and the computer
> power ground connected in common.
> The slight offset in the RS232 transmit and receive
> signals should not cause a problem with communication.
> What do others do with laptop / LXnnn grounding in the field?

No, No! just the other way around. The 232 wire should provide a ground connection. It is necessary to not ground the scope power battery and the computer power supply together. If you want to have both grounds, then you should short out the 0.1 ohm resistor. You will then not have a current bar indicator, but it serves almost no useful purpose anyway.

The way the LX is powered when you have two things on the same battery is simply not good engineering design. But that is the way it is. Ideally you need to use two separate batteries to power two things when one of them is the LX.


Subject: AstroArt Software for Astrophotography   Top

From: Ric Ecker <> Date: Nov., 2000

Give a try for stacking, it is by far the simplest stacking, flat, bias and dark frame image processing program I have ever seen. You pull all your images from files and click and drag the files to the proper boxes then click ok! and the software will register all your images (20 to 30, no problem) subtract many darks, bias and flats at the same time and within seconds. Very remarkable, it cost is about $150 with free plug-ins and free programs by other programmers. You can download a working copy (partial) from Anarondack. The program is designed by Professional Astronomers. Most cameras are supported. I found it at: <> Note: should open a new browser window over this one.



Subject: Adaptec Alternatives   Top

From: "S.I.G.H" <> Date: Nov., 2000

You may still be able to make things work, but probably not with Windoze 95, you probably have to go to 98. You may want to pick up a little software tool I wrote. Grab it at:
Pick the Pictor SCSI test program.

Oh, some more things to check. Do you have the LATEST ASPI? Don't let anyone tell you that you don't need it. Install the latest and greatest! You can get it from the Adaptec website, if you can't find it, try calling Amy at Meade (1-800-626-3233). ASPI is an interface NOT a driver, so don't let people tell you that you don't need it (okay, I've repeated that once, so you should understand just how important it is). If you do not have WNASPI32 installed, the Pictor SCSI interface WILL NOT WORK!

So make sure WNASPI32.DLL is installed. Should be in your WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory, I believe, but it might be in just the WINDOWS directory.


Subject: UTC Display & NightVision Update Available    Top

From: Stephen Hutson <> or <>

Just a quick note to the MAPUG listers who use the freeware UTC Display or NightVision: Both versions have been updated today, and may be downloaded at the following pages:

NightVision is offered for PC and Mac, UTC Display is Mac only. (Let me know if you'd like me to work on a Windows version of UTC Display.) Change notes appear on the above pages.


Subject: LX200: Help with RS232 Connection Problems   Top

From: Bob Denny <> Date: Nov., 2000

Kevin Mills wrote:
> Now the only difference between the desktop and the laptop was
> that the laptop was using a USB->SERIAL adapter because the laptop
> does not have a serial port connector on it.

Typical-- I get so frustrated by the apparent inability of so many communications hardware companies to provide decent drivers. Of course it may be that the serial <--> USB adapter itself is faulty, but my instincts tell me otherwise.

There's one company I trust: QUATECH. You might think about getting a PCMCIA serial adapter from them. I have one for my notebook (which runs Win98) and it has been flawless. Their drivers are very nicely done, never a problem, the plug-n-play support is flawless. I use the 2-line RS232 adapter. Their web site is at:

Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


Subject: Satellite Tracker Software Video    Top

From: Brent Boshart <> Date: Dec., 2000

Have a look at <> to see how a LX200 is capable of tracking the space shuttle. This video was shot through a 8" LX200 with Satellite Tracker guiding.


Subject: Planetarium Software Compilation   Top

From: Bill Arnett <> Date: Feb 2001

Here is a compilation of various planetarium and sky simulation programs.

   Note: should open a new browser window over this one.


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