In this article, I introduce another option available for the astronomers out there—specifically, Cartes du Ciel, also known as SkyChart. Similar to other larger astronomy programs, you can use SkyChart from the desktop to the observatory.
SkyChart probably won't be available in your distribution's package management system, so you'll need to go to the main website to download it. DEB, RPM and TAR files are available, so you should be able to use it for just about any distribution. Downloads also are available for other operating systems and for other hardware. You even can download a version to run on a Raspberry Pi.
When you first start Cartes du Ciel, you'll be asked where on the globe your observatory is located.
Figure 1. The first step is to set the location where you'll be making observations.
A number of locations already are listed in the database. If your location isn't there, you can enter the latitude and longitude. Once you are done, clicking the OK button pops up a new window with the sky at the current time and location.
Figure 2. The initial display is the sky over your location at the current time.
Unlike many other astronomy programs, time does not progress automatically. The design is more along the lines of being able to generate viewing charts for observation. Buttons in the toolbar at the top allow you to update the time easily.
The default view is to look at the sky at due south. You can change this view by clicking and dragging the star field. If you want to center it on a cardinal direction, there are buttons along the bottom right-hand side of the screen for that task. Just above these cardinal direction buttons, field of view (FOV) buttons set the amount of the sky that is visible.
Along the left-hand side of the main window are several buttons for turning various coordinate systems and markers on and off. Along the top, several toolbars allow you to select which elements of the sky are visible within the sky chart that you are generating. All of these options also are available as menu items. Clicking the Chart menu item provides a list where you can change parameters, such as the field of view, the viewing direction or the coordinate system to use.