ExploreStars App

 

ExploreStars connects you and your Explore Scientific PMC-Eight equipped telescope to the universe with any Windows® device. This platform is designed to simplify your stargazing experience through it's extremely simple and intuitive interface while improving your skills as an astronomer. Click the logo below to access the software via Microsoft's App Store:

ExploreStars has the same basic functions found in other GOTO systems, with an important exception, the app and the command language driving the PMC-Eight is open source - meaning anyone can modify our software or create their own software through our Software Developers Kit (SDK) - and you can download your modified software onto our electronics. Create a Messier challenge. Create a selectable list of objects you want to photograph and program that information into the software. Share it with the community of astronomers that are using this software. We plan to offer a prize with a contest periodically for the best written software code.

Classic four-button pattern for guiding, centering, moving and slewing on the touch screen of your tablet or phone. Selectable and User Enterable GoTo, Slewing, Centering and Guiding Rate. Your standard 1 star, 2 star alignment and 3 star alignment functions. Over 70,000 object database - but wait until you see the interface - it's beauty and the graphics will impress you. Along with Sidereal, King, Lunar, Solar, and user defined tracking rates; Synchronize function; Search function; Coordinate input; Custom mount support using enterable stepper count scaling and Polar Axis Correction (ALIGNMENT PROCESS).

For stellar objects, we are using the Hipparcos/Tycho II database. Where possible, we have cross-referenced the Bayer, Flamstead, SAO, HD/Harvard, DM, BD/CD/CPD, and GSC catalogs. The user can search by any of these designations to find a given star. When the system first starts, it loads the 2,000+ stars of magnitude 5.5 and brighter. The user can load the additional 72,000+ star catalog as needed.

For non-stellar objects, we use the RNGC/IC catalog. The system is designed so the user can update the provided catalogs and create your own catalog using tables and scripts in Microsoft Access. Also, each object has a unique ID number, so users can report errors and omissions.

To start using ExploreStars, download the free app by clicking the logo above and load it to your Windows device, and also download the celestial data set that contains the astronomical catalogs, reference images, and reference text. Simply by unzipping the ExploreStars folder containing the expanded celestial data set into your Pictures directory, you will expand the native database from a thousand objects to over seventy thousand objects.

Upon startup of the ExploreStars app, a message that says “Please Wait” is displayed as it links wirelessly to the PMC-Eight, this can take several a few seconds. After it connects, the home screen with a touch sensitive telescope control keypad is on the right, pointing information is displayed in the center, and a touch sensitive finger-drag controller for slewing the telescope in any direction is on the left, that you move your finger across to slew the telescope. You are now ready to start the alignment process and explore the stars.

As an IMPORTANT side note: There is an advanced feature in the ExploreStars application that ensures accurate tracking rates are maintained when a proper physical polar alignment is not obtained and you are performing the 2 or 3 star alignment procedure. There are 2 tracking modes available called Track mode and Point mode. When slewing to an object after a 2 or 3 star alignment, the system goes into Point mode which controls the mount to continually “Point” to the object based on the real-time calculated motor position using the 2 or 3 star pointing correction.

The behavior of the mount in this mode is such that the tracking rate not only on the RA axis but also the DEC axis is adjusted dynamically and is updated 5 times per second to maintain the object in the center of the field. When slewing the mount manually with the keypad buttons, the system reverts to “Track” mode which sets the RA axis rate to the predetermined set tracking rate value. All of these functions result in excellent object tracking for both visual and astrophotography.

The Point mode is indicated on the ExploreStars display as a “triangle P” symbol, and the Track mode is indicated by the “square Tr” symbol. So even if you are not physically polar aligned, you can still rely on the tracking rates to be accurate when doing astrophotography. There are limitations to the length of exposure with regard to field rotation based on the focal length and image scale of your equipment.

Functionality is generally pretty intuitive. For a complete users manual, click here.

Below are examples of images we display on your Windows tablet, smartphone or PC for various operations and pointing. 

 

 

The source code for ExploreStars is also available for programmers on the OpenGOTO Community to serve as a demonstration platform for those who wish to create their own Astronomy GOTO or Motion Control software for the Explore Scientific PMC-Eight™. The PMC-Eight is a powerful wireless 8 CPU micro-controller designed for precision motion control for telescope mounts available through Explore Scientific.