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Software: Meagastar

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I’m a hard-core observer and have always been on the lookout for a comprehensive observing program that would do what I want. I had an early version of The Sky. A great piece of software, but to me, it was tailored to the SCT crowd and had a lot of flashy “tourist” stuff that I didn’t need. Then I saw the ad for Megastar on the Willman-Bell web site. Megastar looked like the perfect program for me. No frills, but a seriously comprehensive database and mapping program focused on observing.

As soon as I could afford it, I bought the earlier version. It worked great. I finally upgraded to the latest version 5.* and it has not changed since about 2006.

I love this program. It not only has almost every object I could possibly see with my 16” scope, it has ways to select them and sort them. I’m talking about the observing lists, which are easily generated. All you do is create a list name and make it current to the present session. From that point, you select the objects you want to look for, right click on the little data window that comes up, and add it to the observing list. I created lists for the Herschel 1, Herschel 2, Herschel 2500, Tirion catalogue, and lately, the Skiff and Luginbuhl list. As I observe them, I delete each object from the file and they don’t show up the next time. That way, I can print charts of only the objects I want to see and don’t have to filter through the stuff I already have seen. It can get a bit tricky though, especially in crowed areas where there are many objects in the same field. For these instances, I select the full database, use the magnitude filter to cut out what I can’t possibly see, then print the chart. That way I can zero in on the specific object.

I love being able to print just the charts I need for a specific night. Used in conjunction with my Tirion atlas, I have a much easier time finding those faint fuzzies.

I understand Emil Bonnanno was meticulous in adding the correct data to each object, and it shows. What my NGC-2000 book shows with outdated data, Megastar gives a more updated set.

My only beef with this software is that there haven’t been any more updates since 2006. Whenever I try to contact the author, I hit a brick wall at Willmann-Bell. I don’t know if anyone else has been luckier in that way, but I would like to see a few updates now and then as I’m sure there is some tweaks that Mr. Bonnanno could still do.

I love this program and don’t need the flashy “tourist” stuff that comes with The Sky and the other programs out there. For the serious visual observer, this program can’t be beat. Highly recommended.


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