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 (100 million with addon catalogs), 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. To see how object appears in the eyepiece under different telescopes and field of views, use the Simulate Eyepiece View tool to render a simulated view of what you see.

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. Furthermore, any 3rd party tool or language with support of D-Bus can be used to write powerful scripts using KStars D-Bus API.

Enable HiPS all-sky progressive overlay to fetch high-resolution images and display them directly in the sky map. You can select from numerous catalogs compiled from different earth and space based missions. This features requires a fast internet connection in order to download the images. The images are cached locally to reduce bandwidth. You can optimize the caching options to best balance between disk space versus bandwidth.

KStars is also for astrophotographers. You can control telescopes and cameras using the elegant and powerful INDI protocol. Ekos supports many popular telescopes including Meade's LX200 family and Celestron GPS. Many popular CCD, CMOS and DSLR astrophotography cameras, webcams, and computerized focusers are also supported. Simple slew/track commands are integrated directly into the skymap'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. For advanced users, KStars provides Ekos, a complete astrophotography suite for Linux, Mac and Windows. Ekos is based on a modular extensible framework to perform common astrophotography tasks. This includes highly accurate GOTOs using astrometry solver, ability to measure and correct polar alignment errors , auto-focus and auto-guide capabilities, and capture of single or stack of images with filter wheel, rotator and dome support. Complex jobs can be scheduled and run automatically with the Ekos scheduler, taking into account priority, altitude, terrain, moon and twilight constraints. You can view the progress of a night's astrophotography session using the Ekos Analyze module, and view the images captured using the FITS Viewer. Ekos is described in Chapter 5.

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.