SKYCAL

SKYCAL is a handy utility written by John Thorstensen of Dartmouth College. It generates almanacs and displays the visibility of targets. It can be run by clicking on the SKYCAL icon on the PC. The notes included in the source code follow:

            SKY CALCULATOR PROGRAM

        John Thorstensen, Dartmouth College.

   This program computes many quantities frequently needed by
   the observational astronomer.  It is written as a completely
   self-contained program in standard c, so it should be
   very transportable; the only issue I know of that really affects
   portability is the adequacy of the double-precision floating
   point accuracy on the machine.  Experience shows that c compilers
   on various systems have idiosyncracies, though, so be sure
   to check carefully.

   This is intended as an observatory utility program; I assume the
   user is familiar with astronomical coordinates and nomenclature.
   While the code should be very transportable, I also
   assume it will be installed by a conscientious person who
   will run critical tests before it is released at a new site.
   Experience shows that some c compilers generate unforseen errors
   when the code is ported, so the output should be checked meticulously
   against data from other sites.

   The first part (the almanac) lists the phenomena for a single
   night (sunset, twilight, moonrise, mooset, etc.) in civil clock time.
   The rise-set and twilight times given are good
   to a minute or two; the moon ephemeris used for rise/set is good to
   +- 0.3 degrees or so; it's from the Astronomical Almanac's
   low precision formulae, (with topocentric corrections included).
   The resulting moon rise/set times are generally good to better than
   two minutes.  The moon coordinates for midnight and in the 'calculator
   mode' are from a more accurate routine and are generally better than
   1 arcmin.  The elevation of an observatory above its effective
   horizon can be specified; if it is non-zero, rise/set times are
   corrected approximately for depression of the horizon.

   After displaying the phenomena for one night, the program goes
   into a 'calculator mode', in which one can -

        - enter RA, dec, proper motion, epoch, date, time,
             new site parameters, etc. ...

        - compute and display circumstances of observation for the
           current parameters, including precessed coordinates,
           airmass, interference from moon or twilight, parallactic
           angle, etc; the program also gives calendar date in
           both UT and local, Julian date, and barycentric corrections.

        - compute and display a table of airmasses (etc) at
           hourly intervals through the night.  This is very useful
           at the telescope.  Also, if one has a modest number of
           objects, it may be convenient (using system utilities)
           to redirect the output and print a hard copy of these
           tables for ready reference.

        - compute and display galactic and ecliptic coordinates.

        - compute and display rough (of order 0.1 degree, but often
          much better) positions of the major planets.

        - display the almanac for the current night.

    The program is self-contained.  It was developed on a VMS system,
   but should adapt easily to any system with a c compiler.  It has
   been ported to, and tested on, several popular workstations.
        ** BUT CAUTION ... **
   Because many of the routines take a double-precision floating point
   Julian Date as their time argument, one must be sure that the machine
   and compiler carry sufficient mantissa to reach the desired accuracy.
   On VAX/VMS, the time resolution is of order 0.01 second.  This has also
   proven true on Sun and IBM workstations.

LEGALITIES:

   I make no guarantee as to the accuracy, reliability, or
   appropriateness of this program, though I have found it to be
   reasonably accurate and quite useful to the working astronomer.

   The program is COPYRIGHT 1993 BY JOHN THORSTENSEN.
   Permission is hereby granted for non-profit scientific or
   educational use.
   For-profit use (e. g., by astrologers!) must be through negotiated
   license.  The author requests that observatories and astronomy
   departments which install this as a utility notify the author
   by paper mail, just so I know how widely it is used.

   Credits:
    * The julian date and sidereal time routines were
    originally coded in PL/I by  Steve Maker of Dartmouth College.
    They were based on routines in the old American Ephemeris.
    * The conversion from julian date to calendar date is adapted
    from Numerical Recipes in c, by Press et al. (Cambridge University
    Press). I highly recommend this excellent, very useful book.