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1. Introduction

Scientific Astronomer is a Mathematica package implementing graphical and other tools of interest to amateur and professional astronomers.

The package produces charts, generates animations, and derives information to help you learn more about astronomical events. For instance, if you hear about a new event, such as a bright comet, an eclipse, or a lunar occultation, Scientific Astronomer allows you to determine the location and details of the event. Similarly, you can use the package to re-create the circumstances of ancient eclipses, planetary alignments, and other events of historical significance. A very simple application is to discover, for example, the phase of the Moon on the day you were born.

Scientific Astronomer generates finder charts for interesting objects in the sky. The night sky is full of familiar and unusual objects, many of which are visible to the naked eye. Most of us have seen the planet Venus and could identify a few constellations, but there are many other astronomical objects and events visible to the naked eye. A few possibilities include a meteor shower, the Mir Space Station, a lunar eclipse, the planet Mercury, the asteroid Vesta, a colorful star, a double star, a variable star, a star cluster, or a galaxy. All these objects are visible on clear dark nights at an appropriate time of the year.

The trick to sighting such objects is to know where and when to look. Scientific Astronomer gives you the tools to determine "the where" and "the when".

Aided with good binoculars, you can see even more objects, such as Jupiter's moons, Saturn's rings, various comets, diffuse nebulae, and a few galaxies. Again, Scientific Astronomer gives you the tools to locate the objects and to reproduce and predict the circumstances of their appearance.

About the Package

Scientific Astronomer includes over 9,000 stars, and it can determine the positions of all the planets, the Sun, the Moon, and other objects on any given date for thousands of years into the past or future. It also includes a large number of deep sky objects.

Scientific Astronomer covers four main areas of astronomy. It has functions for star charting, planet plotting, eclipse predicting, and satellite tracking. There are, of course, a large number of other functions and features in the package.

Five types of charts are defined in Scientific Astronomer, including two wide field star charts. With the star charts you can zoom into any portion of the sky. All the star charts have options to show spectral colors, mesh lines, a sky line, the horizon line, and the Milky Way; and to label constellations, stars, planets, deep sky objects, and so on.

Planet plotting is done in either two- or three-dimensional forms. Surface features for the Earth, the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter are shown on the plots. Moons, and their shadows, are displayed for the Earth and Jupiter. Related functions allow you to produce planet position finder charts and planet rise/set timing charts.

The package provides several functions for dealing with eclipses. These functions provide information about both solar and lunar eclipses, and are general enough to handle Galilean moon eclipses, occultation of stars by the Moon, and transits of Mercury or Venus across the solar disk. You can produce umbra and penumbra track plots and perform eclipse prediction.

The satellite tracking feature of Scientific Astronomer allows you to create track plots, make visibility predictions, and project satellite tracks onto star charts.

Miscellaneous features are available, such as producing planisphere plates, planet charts, and solar system plots. In addition, sunrise, moonrise, and full moon functions are provided, as well as functions for adding new objects such as comets and satellites.

Overall, Scientific Astronomer provides a large number of tools of interest to professional and amateur astronomers. Not only does the package contain standard planetarium-type features for generating star charts, but it has functions that when used in conjunction with Mathematica create a general astronomy computing environment.

Scientific Astronomer is fully compatible with Mathematica Version 3 and 4. The package has many palettes and hyperlinks, and is fully documented in the Help Browser.

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