Chapter 1. Introduction

KStars lets you explore the night sky from the comfort of your computer chair. It provides an accurate graphical representation of the night sky for any date, from any location on Earth. The display includes 126,000 stars to 9th magnitude (well below the naked-eye limit), 13,000 deep-sky objects (Messier, NGC, and IC catalogs), all planets, the Sun and Moon, hundreds of comets and asteroids, the Milky Way, 88 constellations, and guide lines such as the celestial equator, the horizon and the ecliptic.

However, KStars is more than a simple night-sky simulator. The display provides a compelling interface to a number of tools with which you can learn more about astronomy and the night sky. There is a context-sensitive popup menu attached to each displayed object, which displays object-specific information and actions. Hundreds of objects provide links in their popup menus to informative web pages and beautiful images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories.

From an object's popup menu, you can open its Detailed Information Window, where you can examine positional data about the object, and query a huge treasury of online databases for professional-grade astronomical data and literature references about the object. You can even attach your own Internet links, images and text notes, making KStars a graphical front-end to your observing logs and your personal astronomical notebook.

Our Astrocalculator tool provides direct access to many of the algorithms the program uses behind the scenes, including coordinate converters and time calculators.

You can plan an observing session using our Altitude vs. Time tool, which will plot curves representing the Altitude as a function of time for any group of objects. If that is too much detail, we also provide a What's Up Tonight? tool that summarizes the objects that you will be able to see from your location on any given night. You can add your favorite objects to your observing wish-list using the Observation Planner tool, which allows you to plan your observation sessions professionally.

KStars also provides a Solar System Viewer, which shows the current configuration of the major planets in our solar system. There is also a Jupiter Moons Tool which shows the positions of Jupiter's four largest moons as a function of time.

Our primary goal is to make KStars an interactive educational tool for learning about astronomy and the night sky. To this end, the KStars Handbook includes the AstroInfo Project, a series of short, hyperlinked articles on astronomical topics that can be explored with KStars. In addition, KStars includes D-Bus functions that allow you to write complex scripts, making KStars a powerful "demo engine" for classroom use or general illustration of astronomical topics.

However, KStars is not just for students. You can control telescopes and cameras with KStars, using the elegant and powerful INDI protocol. KStars supports several popular telescopes including Meade's LX200 family and Celestron GPS. Several popular CCD cameras, webcams, and computerized focusers are also supported. Simple slew/track commands are integrated directly into the main window's popup menu, and the INDI Control Panel provides full access to all of your telescope's functions. INDI's Client/Server architecture allows for seamless control of any number of local or remote telescopes using a single KStars session.

We are very interested in your feedback; please report bugs or feature requests to the KStars development mailing list: . You can also use the automated bug reporting tool, accessible from the Help menu.

This documentation is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.