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Starry Night Special Edition v5.0.3 Software


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Personal Background

My current 'scope, Orion SkyQuest XT12 IntelliScope, is the 3rd telescope I've owned. Living 40-something miles outside of Chicago has always presented challenges with stargazing so I've always held to the notion that the bigger the tube and the more filters you have will generally yield a good night under the stars! My first scope was a Sears catalog special... but I saw Saturn hanging in the eyepiece when I was 14 and that did it for me! 25 years later I'm lugging around a 12" Dob. ;-)

Free Software, can it be any good?

Sure! Free is always good. But since you are paying hundreds (if not thousands) for a new telescope you'd kinda expect to get a little software to aide you in the quest for cool astronomical sightings. When I bought my 'scope from Orion, they gave me a copy of Starry Night Special Edition, v5.0.3. The Starry Night Software is commercially available at different price points from $49.95 to $299.95. Although their latest version, 6.3, is packed with amazing functionality varying on the price point, the free version you get "just" shows your location on the Earth, what you can see at this particular moment or what you can see any some date/time combo in the future (or past!). You can also search and view literally tens of thousands of searchable objects. I find this actually useful when I'm start-hopping. I'll usually hit the program and check out the night sky to determine where I want to go tonight. I've even used it to print Star Charts, too! You also get the "Starry Night Companion" which is a 192-page PDF guide to understanding the night sky... a good read for amateurs and pro's! The software will also Auto-Update important files like asteroid and satellite info so each time you run the app you know you've got fresh data.

Should you upgrade??

So let's face it, although you aren't pushed into doing so, the Starry Night company would love for you to upgrade to one of their other Starry Night products. For example for $60 you can upgrade to Starry Night Enthusiast 6.3 which has joystick-support for spaceship travel mode. The standard "Special Edition" won't let you control your telescope but for a $125 "upgrade" you can. Basically, you'll get $25-off their retail prices if you Upgrade. Unless you have a particular need to control your 'scope (and you don't already own software to control your go-to) or you want to fly thru space in a spaceship, there really isn't a need to upgrade, IMHO. The free version is amazingly powerful and feature-rich.

Final Verdict:

I've found this free software to actually be quite invaluable! It's extremely useful when you want to space-out while at work (pun intended), to get to know a particular area of the night sky before heading out or to enjoy the cosmos during the day or when it's cloudy. If you've purchased a 'scope from Orion and haven't installed this software, do yourself a favor and check it out!






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