Updated Guide 5.0

A few small problems have been reported with Guide 5.0. Also, some small improvements have been made to the software since the CDs were made. Guide 5.0 was replaced by Guide 6.0 back in the 1990s, but you can request the file guide5up.zip for the Windows version, and/or the file dosguide.zip for the DOS version, by contacting Project Pluto. You would then unZIP the file(s) in your Guide 5.0 directory. By doing so, you will see the following bug fixes and improvements:

Bug fixes:

  • Crashes in Help and "More Info"
  • Missing camera frame on printouts
  • Incorrect magnitudes on some NGC objects
  • Moons of Saturn mislabelled on printouts
  • Some near-earth asteroids drawn incorrectly
  • Confused legend items after printouts
  • Level sizes "stuck" until redraw
  • -- On some machines, in the Windows software, if you brought up "More Info" or "Glossary" enough times, no info or glossary was shown. In some cases, this eventually crashed the system.

    -- The camera frame didn't show up on printouts in Windows.

    -- Some NGC objects, at some levels, had oddball magnitudes (usually 25.5).

    -- On printouts, it was possible to get the moons of Saturn mislabelled (each moon was labelled with the symbol for the next moon out from the planet). Also, Mimas was shown 9.5 magnitudes dimmer than it really is.

    -- A bug that was probably around since Guide 3.0, but which no one noticed until recently: some near-earth asteroids were not drawn correctly. Lawrence Garrett spotted the first case, asteroid 4197 during part of October; I tested a few cases and have found only one other (4179 Toutatis in December 1992). Given the unusual nature of the bug (it requires the asteroid to move in a particularly unlikely manner), I'm not surprised that it didn't surface before.

    -- After printouts in the Windows version, Guide could be very confused if you clicked on an object or legend item. Once the screen was redrawn (by panning, zooming, going to an object, or whatever), all was well again. The intervening redraw is now unnecessary.

    -- After resetting a level size (using F6 or the menu option), the level size remained "stuck" until you zoomed in and out again. You could work around it easily enough, but it was pretty bizarre behavior.


    A few improvements are in Guide 5.0001:

  • (added 28 Jun 97) Spanish-language user interface
  • (added 20 Jun 97) SA 1.0 display
  • (added 20 Jun 97) Movable legend with more styles
  • (added 20 Jun 97) Planets as names or symbols; switch for full planetary precision
  • (added 20 Jun 97) Central meridians for all remaining planets
  • (added 20 Jun 97) Europa, Io, and Pluto with bitmaps
  • (added 11 Jun 97) Improved display of bitmapped planets
  • (added 11 Jun 97) Updated German-language menus
  • (added 11 Jun 97) Clusters of galaxies shown as pentagons
  • (added 11 Jun 97) Projections: stereographic, orthographic, gnomonic
  • (added 11 Jun 97) Data Shown shortcut
  • (added 11 Jun 97) Color printouts
  • (added 11 Jun 97) Font size, style controls
  • (added 28 May 97) Great Red Spot setting & display
  • (added 28 May 97) Tables of some events
  • (added 28 May 97) USNO A1.0 display
  • (added 21 May 97) "Alternative colors" toggle
  • (added 21 May 97) Ability to make .BMP (Windows bitmap) image files
  • (added 21 May 97) "Direct to screen" toggle
  • (added 25 Mar 97) New dialog box for animation
  • (added 25 Mar 97) Satellites of Mars and Uranus
  • (added 25 Mar 97) Use of middle button of a 3-button mouse to pan & zoom
  • (added 25 Mar 97) Ability to run the GETIMAGE utility as a "standalone" program
  • (added 11 Mar 97) Support added for DSS (Digital Sky Survey) data
  • (added 21 Feb 97) (Windows only) Use of "standard" Windows-style dialogs for selecting file names
  • (added 15 Feb 97) Hotkey to show line of variation of asteroids, comets
  • (added 15 Feb 97) Hotkey to add new comet, asteroid elements direct from MPC!
  • (added 4 Feb 97) Improved RealSky (rectangular areas, better memory usage)
  • (added 4 Feb 97) Grids, ticks, labels in ecliptic, galactic, alt/az coordinate systems
  • (added 23 Jan 97) GSC star lists use raw data
  • (added 23 Jan 97) Guide displays RealSky data
  • (added 23 Jan 97) Hotkey to move CCD frame
  • (added 23 Jan 97) Hotkeys to simplify entering a new date/time
  • (added 23 Jan 97) Saturn's rings look more realistic
  • (added 23 Jan 97) Display of NLTT, quasars, radio catalogs, some others
  • (test basis only) "Image matching"; display of images matched to Guide charts
  • Full-precision VSOP planetary positions
  • (test basis only) Features on other planets
  • Display and entry of ecliptic and galactic coordinates
  • Central meridians for some solar system objects
  • "Scope driver" system
  • German and French-language support
  • Direct creation of PostScript files
  • Apparent coordinates
  • Margins menu in Windows
  • Fractional time zones
  • Globulars controlled separately from open clusters
  • Better handling of colors
  • Color handling

    Colors of constellation lines, borders, labels, and planet trails are handled by going into the Overlay menu, selecting the appropriate overlay, and setting its color. (Previously, that got you an error message; the only way to reset those colors was to enter the "Set Colors" option.) In Windows, the "Data Shown" menu provides buttons to change the colors of each type of data; under DOS, the same buttons appear when you enter the submenu for a particular type of data. The major advantage of this is that one can set separate colors for, for example, galaxies and nebulae; they are no longer both set by a single "Deep Sky" color.

    Under Windows, the above changes meant that there was no longer a need for a "Set Colors" menu, and it was eliminated. Under DOS, the "Set Colors" menu still exists, but is used only to reset the colors of grids, ticks, and similar markings (something it was previously impossible to do from DOS).

    Separate globular cluster controls

    -- Globulars are now controlled separately from open clusters, in the Data Shown menu.

    Fractional time zones

    -- Guide 5, like all earlier versions, doesn't handle fractional time zones. I have sold a total of zero copies in Iran, China, and Newfoundland (three areas afflicted with half-hour time zones), so I didn't worry about this. One of my customers in South Australia pointed out to me that South Australia and the Northern Territory (the "center zone" of Australia) is on UT +9:30. So I added fractional time zones; when you click on "Time Zone... Enter Time Diff", you can enter a "time difference" of 9.5 for central Australia, or 9.25 for a part of Australia that inexplicably uses a quarter-hour time zone.

    Margins menu

    -- Several people objected to the lack of a "Margins" menu in the Windows Guide 5. I had thought that this was not getting any real use, but that appears not to be the case. Windows Guide 5.0001 has a margins menu, accessible by hitting the '^' (caret, or Shift-6) key.

    Apparent positions

    -- Past versions showed only astrometric positions, uncorrected for aberration and nutation. These last two effects are not, in general, of much interest; the real concern is getting positions that match star charts or positions from catalogs. However, the September 1996 Sky & Telescope used the apparent coordinates of Neptune on 24 Sep 1846 as a test case; to match their results, I had to display apparent coordinates as well as astrometric.

    Aside from Sky & Telescope software reviewers, about the only other people who will need this correction are those using meridian circles, such as those at La Palma and at Lowell Observatory. Everyone else, in fact, would do well to ignore the apparent coordinates. There is some cause for concern here. Apparent coordinates are not only useless in the vast majority of circumstances; they can be actually confusing, if they are used in the place of astrometric coordinates.

    Anyone truly concerned about such matters might find it interesting to check the full VSOP capability just added to Guide, as well as into the evaluation of the accuracy of planets.

    Direct creation of PostScript files

    Hit Alt-P, and you are prompted to enter a file name. GUIDE will then draw a chart as a PostScript file. (In DOS, you need not enter a file name; the one chosen in the Printer Setup menu is used.) DOS users with GhostScript will probably be particularly fond of this option; the PostScript file printed using GhostScript can look quite nice. Since the output is in vector form, it can be readily imported and edited in some desktop publishing packages.

    Foreign-language support

    There is already a German-language version of Guide 5.0; just recently, support and files for a French-language version have been uploaded to this site as well. The Guide 5.0 software downloaded from this site should allow you to use these files. You can toggle between English and French menus using the '!' (exclamation mark) key.

    In addition to German and French, there is support in place for other languages. However, the actual translated files have not been made yet.

    Scope driver system

    (DOS only) WGUIDE.EXE has been "hooked" into the scope driver system.

    Central meridians/physical ephemerides

    Central meridians are shown for Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Sun, the Moon, Galilean moons, and (when viewed from other planets) the Earth. Times for transits of the Great Red Spot are also shown. All this has led to display of features on these planets, as well as shadows cast by satellites and planets on one another and shadows cast by the rings of Saturn.

    More recently, this capability has been extended to all nine planets.

    Display & entry of ecliptic & galactic coordinates

    In the Legend menu, one can now toggle the display of ecliptic and galactic coordinates. Like alt./az and RA/dec coordinates, these are updated as the cursor moves; also, if you click on them, you are prompted to enter a coordinate in that system, and the chart will recenter on them.

    Ecliptic coordinates are shown (and assumed to be entered) in the default epoch (usually displayed in the legend). Galactic coordinates have no epoch. Neither coordinate system is of general interest, but a few people have mentioned that they have projects that would be easier if they could make use of these capabilities.

    Bitmapped planets

    (Test basis only) Some work has been done toward the display of "bitmapped planets" (showing craters on the moon, continents on the earth, markings on Mars, belts and the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, and cloud belts on Saturn). Uranus, Neptune, and some satellites are shown in suitable colors (green Uranus, blue Neptune, etc.) To see this, start up the DOS software (either GUIDE.EXE or WGUIDE.EXE), hit Alt-J, and turn Bitmapped Planets ON.

    The result will be that, when you zoom close enough to a planet for it to show as a disk, you will see features of the sort just described. Also, shadows cast by planets on satellites, and by satellites onto planets (and each other) will be shown correctly. Finally, the shadow cast on Saturn by its own rings will be shown. (This last is not very impressive as seen from Earth; try setting "Home Planet" to be, for example, Saturn's moon Iapetus; then look at Saturn.)

    Once bitmapped planets are turned on, by the way, they will also show up in Windows. They appear best in the DOS software in 256 color modes, or in Windows in "true color" modes. In particular, the image of Mars (used with permission from Daniel Troiani and assembled from ALPO observations) looks absolutely stunning in "true color" (or in 256 colors in DOS). For a truly impressive example, see the transit of Mars across Jupiter in 1170, or check out the Earth and moon as seen from other planets.

    A few notes on the use of colors. In 16-color modes in DOS and in 256-color modes in Windows, there are not enough colors available to Guide to let it show planets with color. They are instead shown in dithered shades of gray. 256-color modes in DOS and "true-color" modes in Windows provide Guide with the resources to show planets properly colored.

    This option is on a "test basis only" because (as you will see) it does not look all that wonderful in Windows 256-color modes. (If possible, use "true-color" modes in Windows; if you do this, the planets look incredibly good.) There are some problems with the availability of 64 gray levels (in Windows) that I need to work out. Also, printouts of these objects currently look a little poor.

    Also: only the five objects mentioned (Moon, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) are shown with markings. This is because only for these five objects did I have maps in cylindrical projection. I've since found maps for the Galilean moons and for some moons of Saturn; I will upload these when I have processed them, along with some extra maps for the Earth and Mars.

    This is probably one of the most useless features I have ever added to Guide (though I hope the mapping of Mars will be of use during the coming opposition, and lunar observers may find it nice to see what parts of the moon are well-placed for observing). But it is very pretty!

    Improved planetary positions

    (Test basis only) I have yet to have anyone complain about the precision of planetary positions in Guide. (They are generally good to about an arcsecond.) However, I have recently added support for the "full VSOP theory". The VSOP (Variations Seculaire des Orbites Planetaires) is the planetary motion theory used by Guide and by almost all accurate software. If the full theory is used, one gets accuracy of about .01 arcsecond, according to Jean Meeus' Astronomical Algorithms. (I lack anything to use as a "standard" for comparisons at this level. Comparison to the results from other software is pointless; I would be measuring their errors, not those of Guide. A full discussion of planetary accuracy is available.)

    In the past, Guide has used a "shortened" VSOP, with very small terms ignored. (It is the version given in Astronomical Algorithms.) To switch to the "full" VSOP in DOS, go into the "planet display" submenu under "Data Shown", and toggle "low precision" to "full precision". In Windows, start up the "Data Shown" dialog and look for a (new) checkbox in the lower right corner.

    There are two problems with doing this. First, as mentioned, no one has really claimed a need for this extreme level of precision. The "full VSOP" switch means that planets are given a precision far greater than any other commercially available software, by a factor of roughly 10 to 1 (though it's difficult to tell exactly how great the improvement is). Second, just reading and computing the additional terms takes some time; depending on the speed of your computer, you may have to be more patient in waiting for planets to be displayed. On a '386 or slow '486, this can be annoying. Users of faster hardware will never notice.

    Display of CCD images on charts

    (Test basis only) Considerable work has been done to allow the display of images in the background of Guide charts. The idea is that one could run an image through the Charon astrometry software, then display that image in Guide (a capability described as "image matching".)

    To see how this will work, start up WGUIDE or GUIDE (not the Windows software... at least, not yet!) and go to M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy) at about level 10. Hit Alt-J, and turn Images ON. Now hit Enter.

    The image you will see is one of about a dozen that were originally intended just for testing with Charon. They now also provide a way to test (and demonstrate) how image matching will work. Most of the images are of asteroids, and don't contain interesting deep-sky objects. But there are also images of M57, M13, and NGC 7008.

    This capability also made it quite simple to add support for the RealSky CDs.

    Once Images are turned ON, they will be shown in all three Guide 5.0s, including the Windows Guide.