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Interstellar overdrive - Linux and astronomy

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At a more prosaic level, anyone with an appropriately enabled smart phone can sit beneath the stars and view a labelled Google Sky Map that uses Android, GPS, compass data, date and time to fix your place on earth, and learn the names of the stars.

Anyone with a laptop can access the vast star catalogues that are made available across the net, and view the skies through software packages such as KStars, Stellarium or XEphem, which allow the user to scan the celestial landscape from any perpective on earth in the comfort of their living room. Stellarium and KStars are licensed under the GPL. XEphem is open source and free for non-commercial use.

Each of these packages can be coupled through a laptop to a telescope, and with the
use of filters, dedicated CCD (charge-coupled device) cameras and GOTO technologies, anyone with access to a relatively modest telescope can hope to sidestep the negative effects of light pollution and observe and photograph asteroids and planets, distant nebulae and faraway moons in the kind of detail that not so long ago was the preserve of large scale observatories.

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