HNSKY evaluation :

Dated: 2000-1-5

By:  Bill Anderson

As you both know I have been involved for a long time now with various planetarium programs. I have gone through a progression from The SKY, HyperSky, Mega Star, Guide, Distant Suns, and numerous other commercial programs. Add to these the number of shareware and more recently freeware programs, the list of programs I have tried out is rather large.

What I have been looking for is a program that would print out very high quality charts that have selected objects indicated on them that would permit my finding these objects easily in the field without having to

cart out volumes of Uranometria, Burnams, and other stuff.  The objects on the charts would be easily modified as to shape and other characteristics as well as the ability to change the list of objects

shown to fit the occasion. I felt that it would be nice to have the ability to change the field of view and the density of stars so as to allow a special object to be shown in what could be a small field of, say, a few degrees.

Many programs have the capacity to give me something of what I want, but not all. Sometimes the printout would have some lines dominate the paper or have the objects obscured or of insuffucuent number. Sometimes there would be an overwhelming number of objects so that the chart would be too overcrowded.

My latest venture was to examine three programs to see if they could give me what I want. They are: Earth Centered Universe (ECU), Ciel (from France), and HNSKY from Han Kleijn (I think he lives in the Netherlands). All three looked like they would permit me to get into the program, change the list of objects to view, and do all the other things I wished to do. ECU had a very easy method of changing the object list

but the symbols on the charts were rather hard to see. I am thinking of the difficulty of seeing under a red flashlight in the dark. Also, the constellation lines were rather dominant and made the rest of the chart look somewhat secondary.

Ciel had some possibilities, but the method of making up a list of objects was rather cumbersome, and the printout had much of the space on the page taken up with some legends and lines I couldn't get rid of.

That left the third program, HNSKY. At first it looked like it would notfill my requirements either. At least that is what seemed to be with my initial checking. then things began to fall into place. I have sent a number of e-mails to Han, I fear to the point where he would consider me to be some kind of pest that would not go away.

Then, finally, last night, I found the keys to the technique that has made me feel that perhaps HNSKY is the answer to several of our collective questions for the "NEARLY IDEAL PLANETARIUM" program. Hence,

in my enthusiasm, I am composing this memo in hopes that you collectively could share in my pleasure.

As far as making up a list of objects to place on the chart, that is childishly simple. There can be up to hundreds or even thousands (why??) on the same chart. They can be symbolized by a user-determined circle or ellipse of variable size. Finding them on a chart is very nice. They can be labled or not as the user wishes. The star field can contain stars

from the SAO all the way up to the GSC if the user has the CD's available. I have been in contact with Han to see if there is a way to have the Tycho catalog as one of the choices. He has indicated that he would be willing to work on it after he gets back in contact with his family. (Poor fellow has likely been overinvolved with the program

writing. None of the rest of us have ever been so involved, right?) Then, with the Tycho catalog as a choice and the GCS as ultimate backup, the possibility of having charts for finding obscure objects all the way to binary stars and bright objects with user dictated field of views makes this program seem to be the winner for versatility and ease of

use. For a person that has been so involved with GUIDE, it is quite a change to admit that there is possibly a companion to that program for other uses. I see large field charts with Messier objects clearly deliniated for a Messier Party, a program to plot a finder chart for a dim object with sufficient stars in a small field to permit easier finding of that object, and a program to draw charts for finding binary stars or other type of object for a person at the scope, all in one program.

What's more, the program is FREEWARE. I don't get any promotional fee for my efforts in plugging the program. What I am doing is trying to have other people get a program that I feel is most useful and capable.

I guess I wish to spread my enthusiasm around. To this end, if you two would be willing to forward this memo to others in the SAC club and others elsewhere, perhaps we can get for Han Kleijn some well deserved recognition.

Some necessary data:

e-mail address: han kleijn's email address (Updated 2002)

download site:

The files to download are neither too many nor too big. The set of less than 10 files is less than 10 Meg in total size. They include the main files, the set of data files including the SAC Database in three forms, the star database files of several types, and such.  

I really like the program and the terrific-looking charts it produces. How can one beat the combination of price and capability.

Steve, you can even have galaxies plotted with the ellipse with the correct major/minor axes and proper P.A. How about that?

Well, I'm off to do other things.


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Subject: Planetarium Report

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