I had the opportunity to give the software an extensive going-over.
There is no device control yet, but since there were no devices --
telescope mounts -- available to be controlled, that was moot. While it
was evident that this is an early version, the speed, the ease of use,
and the appearance all bode well for the final release. The folks at
Bisque have been, in their own words, "astounded" by OS X. It is clear
that they have fallen in love with the Mac OS, and attendees of all
stripes agreed that Bisque's growing experience with OS X is exerting a
positive influence on their user-interface design. Incidentally, those
Windows users who (understandably) don't keep up with Mac developments
were absolutely blown away to learn that Bisque's iMac was also running
Windows XP Pro SP2.
Software Bisque is unable to provide a release date for TheSky 7. My
guess, and I have /no/ inside information, is sometime late this year
for a student version and 2007 for the pro version.
Software Bisque is in the early stage of not just an update, but a
complete re-write of their software for Windows and Mac OS; to be
specific, they are not simply updating the Windows versions and then
porting to the Mac. They are, in effect, writing entirely new software
simultaneously for both OS's. Emphasizing again that I have no inside
information, my guess is that CCDSoft will follow TheSky 7 and TPoint
will follow that.
"Grand Tour" for Mac and Windows has come a long way since I was an
Alpha tester this time last year. I don't have a release date for The
Grand Tour, either, but the version I saw at NEAF appeared to be
stable, full-featured (as near as anyone without full access to the
design objectives could tell), and quite polished looking. This will be
a beautiful and fun piece of demonstration software for amateur
astronomers and K-12 educators alike.
usenet *at* davidillig dawt com
TheSky 6 user
Assuming you are familiar with The Sky 6 (you may not be, as there was
never an Apple version), what are the major differences between 6 and
7? Not too many, I hope, as I'm just now really comfortable with The
Sky 6 Professional. ;-)
Author of _Choosing and Using a Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope_
Like SCTs and MCTs?
Check-out sct-user, the mailing list for CAT fanciers:
For Uncle Rod's Astro Blog.
I haven't been paying close attention. What do you think is better than
TheSky 6 these days? Thanks.
TheSky 6 user
Most professional telescope operators use TheSky, as it can run many
different kinds of telescopes.
I use TheSky version 6 with my personal telescope.
I have been using TheSky version 5 at two different telescopes at Mt
Wilson Observatory for the past five years or so.
IMHO nothing is better than TheSky, as you can tinker with it ad
Some amateurs use Starry Night. Quite a few even, but "most"? I don't
think so. It's nice software, but a little on the hoggish side when it
comes to resources IMHO. It's also a little too far on the "pretty"
side for use out in the dark for my taste.
While The Sky is certainly used by some professionals, it's very
accessible for anyone, and, unlike Starry Night, it's endlessly
configurable. You can turn off all the pretty junk.
Frankly, however, I--and many other active amateurs--have turned away
from planetarium software, pretty or otherwise, to "planners" like our
own Greg Crinklaw's SkyTools. IMHO, the list/database methophor makes
more sense for the way most observers work.
>Most amateur astronomers use Starry Nights software.
>Most professional telescope operators use TheSky, as it can run many
>different kinds of telescopes.
>I use TheSky version 6 with my personal telescope.
My observation is that more amateurs use TheSky for telescope control,
but more use Starry Night as a standalone planetarium.
>IMHO nothing is better than TheSky, as you can tinker with it ad
I have long considered TheSky to be the best planetarium program, but I
don't anymore. It is badly in need of updating. It seriously needs its
user interface cleaned up, and its lack of support for ASCOM telescope
drivers limits its ability to take full advantage of the features of
many mounts. The properties and methods it exposes are also quite
limited compared with the most recent Starry Night. I'd love to see the
next release of TheSky address these issues, but I'm not optimistic (the
same problems existed when V6 was released). The Bisques are hostile to
ASCOM, and nowhere near as responsive to user requests as the folks
responsible for Starry Night. I'm afraid that the changes will be more
cosmetic than fundamental (as in V5 to V6).
The only reason I continue to use TheSky is because it is required for
Chris L Peterson
But...I believe 6 _will_ allow you to use ASCOM to interface a scope
rahter than the built-in interface. Also, with the progession of
"hotfixes," I find the user interface via the Toolbar pretty good.
I've tried Starry Night on numerous occasions, but I just have not
every been able to get friendly with it. It's both too much and too
little for me. ;-)
In my opinon, The Sky 6 Pro is as good as planetarium software gets.
With the addendum, that, as I said earlier, I've turned away from
planetariums for much of what I do. Instead...Skytools and the other
planners (Astroplanner, Deep Sky), seem to fit my needs better much of
The thing is, though, if you need integration with T-point, CCDsoft,
Orchestrate or any of the other good and very useful Bisque programs,
you need The Sky 6 Professional. For most "advanced" (whatever that
means) amateurs, it's still _The Sky_. And when you consider the fact
that many people regularly pay more for an eyepiece, it's not an overly
painful buy. IMHO, The Sky 6 Pro probably belongs on every serious
amateur's hard drive. It's till the gold standard. ;-)
> Hi Davoud:
> Assuming you are familiar with The Sky 6 (you may not be, as there was
> never an Apple version), what are the major differences between 6 and
> 7? Not too many, I hope, as I'm just now really comfortable with The
> Sky 6 Professional. ;-)
You probably missed this, but I've said repeatedly in this forum that I
won't cut off my nose to spite my face. Yeah, I have seven Macs but I
also have a Windows laptop running XP Pro SP2 with TheSky 6
Professional, CCDSoft, TPoint, MaximDL CCD/DSLR, Sky Tools, Cartes du
Ciel, Registax, and you-name-it. So there :-) I'm /really/ looking
forward to getting a MacBook Pro and running my favorite Windows
software /simultaneously/ with my Mac software and my Unix software --
no more swapping laptops in the observatory according on the task at
hand. There was a guy at NEAF with a new MacBook Pro, and Mac and
Windows users alike were completely blown away -- three windows, three
OS's, full-speed, with the ease and elegance that only a Mac can
My requirements aren't as rigorous as those of Mr. Peterson -- I like
TheSky 6 just fine -- though I don't see too much difference between
TheSky 6 on Windows and TheSky 5 for Mac -- except that the Mac version
runs on Mac OS 9 and previous. OS 9 is analagous to Windows 98 -- works
fine, but it is obsolete and going nowhere.
Notice I haven't answered your question. TheSky 7 is in a very early
stage of development*, and many features are not yet implemented. I
tried to access the preferences, e.g., but got a "not yet functional"
message. Bisque are emphasizing that this is not a simple update, but a
complete re-writing of the software. They're bringing it to the Mac
because they see sufficient demand to make it worth their investment
and much of the code is identical or very similar to that of the
Windows version now that Macs use Intel processors. Bisque are
implementing OpenGL, and the program ran /very/ fast on the 2GHz Intel
Dual Core iMac (and that's a consumer-level machine with only 128MB
VRAM.) I fear that on a MacBook Pro designed to handle real-time
effects in on-site video editing it'll actually cause the moon to speed
up in its orbit.) The visual interface is entirely new -- colorful --
which will please some and turn off others. Beyond that, I really don't
know. Bisque family members recognize me by sight, probably even
remember my name by now, but I do not have access to proprietary
I expect be a beta tester for TheSky 7, but I won't be able to discuss
the beta software. I'll certainly be able to talk it up -- or down --
after it is released, however.
* Daniel Bisque said "Ouch!" when I wrote on a Mac astronomy forum that
Software Bisque must be the slowest developers on earth, or words to
that effect. But I couldn't dispute the fact that a complete re-write
of TheSky, CCDSoft, and TPoint is a major undertaking.
usenet *at* davidillig *dawt* com
> Frankly, however, I--and many other active amateurs--have turned away
> from planetarium software, pretty or otherwise, to "planners" like our
> own Greg Crinklaw's SkyTools. IMHO, the list/database methophor makes
> more sense for the way most observers work.
I don't see myself abandoning planetarium software like TheSky, but I
also like the planners. Astroplanner is powerful and versatile. On the
Mac it can exchange data with the planetarium and CCD-control program
"Equinox." On Windows it can exchange data with Cartes du Ciel --
though using Astroplanner does not /require/ an external planetarium
usenet *at* davidillig *dawt* com
>But...I believe 6 _will_ allow you to use ASCOM to interface a scope
>rahter than the built-in interface.
Only crudely. That's because the TelescopeAPI driver used by TheSky for
this exposes only a small subset of the features available in the ASCOM
> Also, with the progession of
>"hotfixes," I find the user interface via the Toolbar pretty good.
Well, user interfaces are obviously a matter of taste. What I don't like
about TheSky is the way that options are scattered all over the place-
some things are on menus, some on submenus, some in the Display
Explorer, some in more than one of those. Labels are miserable- they
don't reliably track objects, so a star that isn't displayed may still
show a label. And while virtually every major Windows app allows you to
customize toolbars, TheSky is still stuck with defined toolbars, forcing
you to accept all or none of the buttons.
The whole Bisque model around their product integration is very poor,
IMO. If you want to use CCDSoft to solve a plate, it invokes the graphic
interface of TheSky, altering its environment. That is a horrible (and
entirely unnecessary approach). The way TPoint is implemented as an
embedded object limits its utility outside of TheSky. And as good as the
Paramount is in most respects, the way its function is integrated with
TheSky is ugly (and again, unnecessary).
>I've tried Starry Night on numerous occasions, but I just have not
>every been able to get friendly with it. It's both too much and too
>little for me. ;-)
Me too. But I think that the product is improving rapidly, and in most
respects is now better than TheSky.
>In my opinon, The Sky 6 Pro is as good as planetarium software gets.
>With the addendum, that, as I said earlier, I've turned away from
>planetariums for much of what I do.
Same here. Most of my imaging is handled by scripting now, and I don't
even need a planetarium user interface. TheSky has really just become a
glorified telescope driver (required because of TPoint).
>The thing is, though, if you need integration with T-point, CCDsoft,
>Orchestrate or any of the other good and very useful Bisque programs,
>you need The Sky 6 Professional.
Definitely TPoint. I've long since stopped using CCDSoft, as it is so
terribly limited in its features. Orchestrate is an obsolete piece of
junk- it was bad from the beginning, and has become useless with the
addition of scripting support to the Bisque products.
> For most "advanced" (whatever that
>means) amateurs, it's still _The Sky_. And when you consider the fact
>that many people regularly pay more for an eyepiece, it's not an overly
>painful buy. IMHO, The Sky 6 Pro probably belongs on every serious
>amateur's hard drive. It's till the gold standard. ;-)
I don't think I'd recommend it anymore unless the user needs TPoint
(which I heartily recommend) or has a Paramount (in which case TheSky is
All the same, I've been using it since V2, and I'm most interested to
see what V7 will offer.
> Mac it can exchange data with the planetarium and CCD-control program
> "Equinox." On Windows it can exchange data with Cartes du Ciel --
> though using Astroplanner does not /require/ an external planetarium
Right...and, in fact, since I usually (almost always) use a goto scope,
I find don't really need that often. AP's field of view charts are just
about always enough.
> Most amateur astronomers use Starry Nights software.
> Most professional telescope operators use TheSky, as it can run many
> different kinds of telescopes.
Actually, most professional observatories don't use a planetarium program
like TheSky to run the big scopes. There's no need whatsoever for
planetarium software on these scopes. Telescope control systems are either
written in-house or are packages that were written for one scope and then
made customizable for use on others.
> I use TheSky version 6 with my personal telescope.
> I have been using TheSky version 5 at two different telescopes at Mt
> Wilson Observatory for the past five years or so.
I'd like to add that these aren't the professional research telescopes at
Mt. Wilson. One is a 16" LX-200 used for public outreach while the other
was a 24" used for remote student imaging. Of the eleven research
telescopes on the mountain (not counting solar), nine are using control
systems as described above while two just are set manually using digital
encoders. But for the scopes being used for visual observing and imaging
as part of the public outreach program TheSky is the choice. When the 60"
telescope's drive and control system upgrades are completed it will have
"big scope" type control software but there may be a second computer added
to provide an interface through TheSky. The 60" is now dedicated to public
outreach so the planetarium software will be helpful for the amateurs and
students there as well.
You mean the twin Keck scopes and the Hubble Space Telescope
aren't ASCOM compatible ????? What a disappointment.... :-)
>> I use TheSky version 6 with my personal telescope.
>> I have been using TheSky version 5 at two different telescopes at Mt
>> Wilson Observatory for the past five years or so.
>I'd like to add that these aren't the professional research telescopes at
>Mt. Wilson. One is a 16" LX-200 used for public outreach while the other
>was a 24" used for remote student imaging. Of the eleven research
>telescopes on the mountain (not counting solar), nine are using control
>systems as described above while two just are set manually using digital
>encoders. But for the scopes being used for visual observing and imaging
>as part of the public outreach program TheSky is the choice. When the 60"
>telescope's drive and control system upgrades are completed it will have
>"big scope" type control software but there may be a second computer added
>to provide an interface through TheSky. The 60" is now dedicated to public
>outreach so the planetarium software will be helpful for the amateurs and
>students there as well.
Paul Schlyter, Grev Turegatan 40, SE-114 38 Stockholm, SWEDEN
e-mail: pausch at stockholm dot bostream dot se
Other observatory-grade telescopes that use TheSky:
The 22 inch Kuhn telescope at OCA Anza
The 24 inch telescope at the UC Irvine Observatory
I count the old 24 inch TIE telescope as a research-grade
instrument, but my opinion is admittedly biased. It was originally
designed and build for research and was later refurbished for student
Not /was/ ; /is/ -- it's still listed in Bisque's on-line store. I've
had a copy since it first came out. It works very well, /but/ , as I
wrote in an earlier post in this thread "...I don't see too much
difference between TheSky 6 on Windows and TheSky 5 for Mac -- except
that the Mac version runs on Mac OS 9 and previous. OS 9 is analagous
to Windows 98 -- works fine, but it is obsolete and going nowhere."
I had a conversation with the owners (mostly about using binoviewers!) and
they mentioned the up-date price would be $99 for any owner of ver 5 or 6. I
also mentioned that I thought that CCDsoft needed the most work, but they
said that any work on it would have to wait a while. They then offered to
provide a custom version for me to solve my biggest problem with it: the
numbers on the focus routine are too small to see from the focuser of my
telescope. ( Yes I know you're suppose to let the software focus and the OGS
20RC I use has two ways to focus electrically, but I still prefer the manual
feel of focusing with my fingers.)
Ironic that we were in two adjacent domes last night and other than a few
seconds we didn't see each other, and here we are at home talking on
I took "professional operators" in your post to mean telescopes that were
being used for research. While a telescope may be "research-grade" or
"observatory-grade", it's what you're doing with the telescope that's the
primary factor in choosing control software.
You'll be pleased to hear what might happen with the the Mt. Wilson 60-inch
telescope, though. It's currently undergoing upgrades to the drive and
control system. Phase 1 -- replacement of the motors -- has been completed
(did you get a chance to hear how quiet it is when slewing now?). When
it's completed it will probably have a control system that was developed at
Steward Observatory and is used on many telescopes around the world,
including the six CHARA Array telescopes at Mt. Wilson. But it has the
capability to interface a second computer with the control computer and
have TheSky running on the second computer. It's then possible to issue
commands in TheSky that are translated into the appropriate commands by the
control system. So it will *look* just like it's using TheSky even if it
isn't really more than a secondary way to designate targets. The reason is
that the 60-inch is used for public outreach and amateur observing and
everyone likes to have TheSky handy for that. It will be especially handy
with people going back and forth to the 16-inch like they were last night
when you were operating the 16-inch. Some 60-inch operators already use
TheSky on a computer at the control console for getting object coordinates
since that's what they're used to (I much prefer Sky Tools 2 for object
information of all kinds).
"Davoud" <s...@below.net> wrote in message
> Davoud wrote:
>> > Software Bisque were demonstrating an early version of TheSky 7
> I expect be a beta tester for TheSky 7, but I won't be able to discuss
> A "beta" tester? That's pretty funny. Everyone was a beta tester for Sky6
> because they released it with so many bugs it didn't work for anyone at the
> start. I still much prefer Sky5 then [sic] Starry Night if you want fancier
> graphic overlays.
> I also would like to hear you really try to talk it down, especially on the
> SB forums. They don't publically discuss any shortcomings in their programs.
> You will soon find that the "discussion groups" are there to hype up the
> sales and populated by a lot of people who make their living using free
> products from SB.
I don't make a living using free products from Software Bisque. I'm not
a shill for them, or even an advocate. I have three pieces of their
software, and I like all three just fine. I don't even use their
software very often because I'm primarily a Mac user, and I don't use
my Windows machine as often as I use Macs. If the Mac versions of their
software turn out to be good, then I will use their products more than
I do now.
In any case, *if* I have anything to say publicly about TheSky 7 it
will probably be in this forum and in the various Mac astronomy forums.
This is your written guarantee that my opinions will be worth every
penny you pay for them. If you are not satisfied you may ignore me in
future at no extra charge.
> Good Luck, I hope they really do a total rewrite and real beta testing.
I can say with considerable certainty that Software Bisque are
embarking on a ground-up re-write of their software. SB is not a large
developer like, say, Adobe, so this will not happen overnight. As for
beta testing, company representatives told me that they would be
seeking beta testers; they did not say or imply that they were seeking
phony beta testers. I don't have any way of knowing what is in their
minds; several of my friends -- Mac users and Windows users -- visited
the Bisque booth at NEAF separately from me, and they all came away
with the impression that it is Software Bisque's /intention/ to improve
their software. Time will tell.