Celestial tool and star chart available for Pocket PC

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A new program for star identification and simplified celestial navigation is being offered by a former Microsoft technology wiz whose passion for sailing and navigation became a business opportunity. At its most basic, Pocket Stars — a downloadable software package that sells for $14.95 and is compatible with just about any Pocket PC, including Compaq’s iPaq, HP’s Jornada, and certain Toshiba, Audiovox and Casio models — offers a color screen star finder that provides a picture of the night sky from any location on earth.

Pocket Stars allows users to locate a star within its constellation. A stars height, magnitude and azimuth is also offered.

The user is offered a map of the world and simply clicks on the desired location. The next screen shows the sky, including constellations, star names of 9,000 stars (including the 57 navigational stars), or an exact picture of the sky without identification. A cursor placed on any star will prompt a window to report that star's calculated height, its azimuth (regrettably labeled Az in favor of the traditional, albeit puzzling, Zn, probably because most people these days barely know what an azimuth is, not to mention its obscure abbreviation), a star's designation within a constellation, and its magnitude.

The user can zoom in or out and click and drag oneself around the night sky. For the die-hard celestial navigator, Pocket Stars also offers sight reduction capability. Simply enter in the sextant and dead reckoning data and the software, in less than a few seconds, refers to the same star and planet ephemeris developed and used by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Bright Star Catalogue and Naval Observatory (the same data found in the Nautical Almanac and Hyd– rographic Office sight reduction tables) and presents one's intercept and azimuth. Taken a step further, the software can plot (called "graph" for some reason) any number of LOPs to establish a fix. Also included are set and rise information for all bodies, and a lunar phase calendar.

The developer of Pocket Stars, Jay Borseth, has sailed his Pacific Seacraft 40 for several years, and said he developed the software for his own interest, only recently investing the time and money to offer it to the public. "I started out developing Pocket Stars just to learn celestial navigation for my own amusement, interrupted by a trip from Seattle to Glacier Bay," Borseth said. The product was introduced in December 2001. Check out www.nomadelectronics.com.

By Ocean Navigator