StarDome PLUS: Explore the Sky
The first thing you'll notice when StarDome PLUS starts up is the large, circular, all-sky map. This is an interactive version of the map you'll find every month in Astronomy's pull-out section. |
The zenith (the point directly above an observer's head) is in the center of the map, and the horizon, complete with compass directions, forms the outer boundary.
Spin it and measure it|
You can rotate the main map to place any compass point on the bottom. Just click inside the map and drag it until the direction you want on the bottom appears there. Beneath the tabs, look for a small box that shows the azimuth currently displayed at the bottom of the map. You can click on the azimuth box for a dropdown list that lets you quickly reorient the map to any compass point.
Move and Angle tools. Two buttons appear beneath the Explore the Sky tab. One, shaped like a hand and engaged by default, lets you move the map with the cursor. This is the Move tool.
The Move (left) and Angle tools
The other button is called the Angle tool. When active, you can determine the angular distance between objects displayed. Position the cursor over an object and click and hold the mouse button. Move the cursor to another object, and the angular distance between them will be displayed in the black text area (called the marquee) below the map.
Double-clicking within the map will take you to the closest view available for that location. Double-click near the horizon, and StarDome PLUS will automatically shift to a 45° horizon view centered on that object. If you click on a spot higher in the sky than 42.5°, StarDome PLUS shifts instead to a 100°-wide view centered on the zenith.
These and other views can be selected from dropdown lists in the Options section (see below).
Check the marquee
Beneath the map, there's a small black display area we call the marquee. The marquee provides additional information about objects in the main display. Point to a planet in any view and the marquee will show its:
- right ascension (R.A.) and declination (Decl.);
- azimuth (Az.) and altitude (Alt.);
- apparent visual magnitude (Mag.) on the brightness scale astronomers use;
- illuminated fraction (Illum. frac.), or phase;
- and angular diameter (Ang. Diam.) in arcseconds (").
The marquee shows similar information for other objects. For bright stars, the marquee displays the common name, Bayer designation (Greek letter), and Flamsteed number. (To save space, the Greek letters are sometimes abbreviated; "Alp" equals Alpha, for instance.)
Because some of this information can be lengthy, the marquee automatically scrolls the text. To pause the scrolling text, click and hold the mouse button.
Where on Earth
Set your location
When you launch StarDome PLUS the first time, it will display the sky as it appears from Waukesha, Wisconsin, the home of Kalmbach Publishing Co. and Astronomy magazine.
The Location Settings panel lets you adjust StarDome PLUS to correctly simulate your own sky. The panel displays your geographic position (latitude and longitude), time zone, daylight-saving time setting, and city. You may change each of these values individually if you prefer. Or select a city from our database and change them all at once. Here's how.
Click Find to bring up the Find Latitude and Longitude menu. Enter a city name or a U.S. ZIP code. For locations outside the U.S., you may also add Canadian provinces or country names. Click on Search, and StarDome will query our database of 2 million locations and return with a list matching your criteria. Click on the city you want and select OK.
Use Save to switch quickly among multiple saved locations. StarDome will remember the last location used.
The Location Settings panel is available on every StarDome PLUS tab.
When on Earth
Select the date and time
When StarDome PLUS first starts, it displays the sky as it will appear from the specified location 30 minutes after sunset on the current date. Use the Date and Time panel to change these settings. The panel is available on every StarDome PLUS tab.
Track current time. Click in this checkbox if you want StarDome PLUS to update in real time.
Now. Pressing this button restores the panel to the current time and date on your computer. The panel displays the date as a 4-digit year and 2-digit month and day. StarDome PLUS shows time using a 24-hour clock, where midnight is 0:00, noon is 12:00, and 6 p.m. is 18:00.
You can explore the sky from the astronomical years –6000 (corresponding to 6,001 b.c.) to a.d. 9,999. StarDome PLUS is most accurate, however, within a few centuries of the present.
Animate. The time display also offers a way to animate StarDome PLUS. Place the cursor anywhere in the time display and press the up- arrow. The display will advance by one unit of time where the cursor is placed: minutes, tens of minutes, days, tens of days, months, etc. Use the down-arrow to move time backward.
Previous/next event. Skip forward or backward to a specific type of astronomical event: lunar and solar eclipses, solstices and equinoxes, rising and setting of various objects, and even the transit of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Select the event and, if needed, the object from the dropdown control. Click on the left arrow for the previous event, click on the right arrow for the next one.
More. If you'd like to print your map, here's the place to do it. You'll be prompted on whether to allow StarDome PLUS printer access. You'll also have the ability to select an "ink-saver" option, so stars will print black on a white background.
Lots of options to shoose from.
The Options panel lets you modify StarDome PLUS' appearance and the information it displays. The four dropdowns, in order from the top, control the view, color, items displayed, and the display of object names.
View. StarDome initially starts with the Full Sky - Flat view. An alternative view that more closely matches Astronomy magazine's center star map is Full Sky - Dome. However, the Flat version makes it easier to find objects near the horizon.
Additional views show 45°, 90°, and 120° swaths along the horizon; a span from the horizon to zenith; a 100°-region around the zenith; and 4°-, 8°-, and 16°-wide regions centered on the Sun and Moon. These close-up views are useful for viewing eclipses and occultations.
When displaying small fields of view around the Sun and Moon, additional options appear at the top of the map. These allow you to rotate the view so it's either parallel to the ecliptic (the plane of Earth's orbit) or parallel to the horizon.
Sky color. StarDome PLUS initially starts with a Multicolor sky background, with a glow centered on the Sun and twilight colors that fade to black. This will slow down animations, however, so you may prefer a static blue or black sky background.
Display. These options let you toggle on or off constellation stick figures, the celestial equator, the ecliptic, and selected asteroids and comets. As events warrant, Astronomy's editors may include additional objects.
Show Names. These options let you control what constellation, star, planet, asteroid, and deep-sky object names appear in StarDome PLUS.
StarDome PLUS will remember your most recent selections when you return.
Mark One Specific Object. You can obtain information about a single object even if it isn't displayed. Here's how:
- Click on the Show Names menu.
- Select Mark One Specific Object.
- Choose the object you're interested in finding from the pop-up list.
- Make sure your cursor is off the sky display.
The object's information appears in the marquee, but the text will be colored orange (instead of its usual green) to indicate the object is off-screen.
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