Mac Astronomy Software

This is just a collection point – no detailed reviews! I do note if I have used or continue to use the software (though “continue to use” is problematic, since the city seems to be swallowing my observatory site). If you know of any other software useful to Mac-using amateur astronomers, please post a comment.

In addition, all items on the page have active links to the home page for the software. If any link should fail, I’d appreciate a heads-up comment so that the link can be updated, or the software listing moved to an inactive list.

Some of the Mac software is actually dual platform and works on Macs and Windoze (and sometimes Linux). I don’t comment on the Windoze features here but if I use them under Parallels (currently my method of choice for Windows XP when I absolutely have to run the OS) I will note that.

Nebulosity Image capture and processing software – in active use at the observatory

PHD Push Here Dummy! ==> autoguiding software for a limited number of cameras, available for both Mac and Windows. In active use (and doing a great job!) with a DSI mono camera. Among cameras supported are Fishcamp Starfish, Meade DSI series, SBIG, and The Imaging Source (DCAM Firewire).

Equinox 6 Planetarium type software with a number of scope-oriented features. Equinox 5 works only on earlier Macs. In active use at the observatory.

Astroplanner – You need this. You need this now! Observation planning, logging, scope control, etc. (Dual platform application)

ScopeDriver As the name implies…. Not in active use here, but I am looking at it

Lynkeos Image processing, oriented around webcams. Version 1.3 used intermittently, version 2.0 has been downloaded but is not yet tested.

ImageStacker Image processing, oriented around webcams. Used intermittently.

AstroImager Image processing, oriented around webcams. Not in active use here.

Starry Night – expensive software from Imaginova, available on both Mac and Windows, very good presentation, some ‘scope control. Did I mention expensive? Version 4.5.7 is used frequently here, but the current release version is about 6.2.

Voyager 4 is the latest in a long line of planetarium software on the Mac. The latest version is a Universal binary: older versions are still available for OS 9 and Windoze, and a Windoze version of Voyager 4 is in preparation.

iAstrophoto is Canon-oriented but still useful for general DSLR work through its folder-watching feature. In fact the newer Canons don’t work directly and must also use folder-watching. The developer says the latest Canon SDK demands a rewrite of the program, but says he will do that eventually.

TheSky has been released for Mac OS X but its various versions are a little pricey for me now that I am retired. That’s unfortunate, because the Serious Astronomer Edition and the Professional Edition both appear to be excellent and worth a look.

Something of a retro application at the moment FilmStar is an alignment program for scanned film images. Film? Film? What is that?

PixInsight is now on my “To Check Out” list. It’s software which is available for Mac, Windoze, and Linux, and has a 45-day trial license as well as a full commercial license (€171.00 plus any applicable taxes). As of mid-2012 my permanent observatory has been swallowed by the city environment (3.1 magnitude limit on a night rated as excellent under Clear Sky Clock. Ugh.) and I haven’t worked out an alternate (affordable) observing plan.

“Unconfirmed” Mac software

This is software which runs on the Mac but which I so far haven’t used or checked out much. Sometimes this is because I don’t have the hardware needed to check it out, and other times it is because I don’t have a need for the software or it would interfere with existing software.

An example is AstroIIDC which is by all accounts a very fine piece of work. However, it is oriented around Firewire webcams and I currently don’t have such an animal.

I also don’t have a Meade ‘scope based around Autostar, so Mac Autostar controllers don’t generally attract my attention.

iCCD requires Starlight Express cameras, so is untested on this site.

Cartes du Ciel (apparently to be known as “Skychart” in English, though so far most continue to refer to it as Cartes du Ciel or ‘CdC’ for short) is now available for OS X on Intel machines. Installed January 13 2008. Minimal testing at this point.

Video drivers

Auto-guiding generally involves checking the image from a camera and sending adjustments to the mount correct changes in position. Except for a few standalone devices, that generally requires that the computer be able to receive and manipulate the image from the camera, and usually that means in real time – i.e. video, not discrete images. Macs do pretty well with built-in video or external iSight cameras, but that’s not suitable for astronomical applications. External cameras usually require a driver.

USBVision is based around a hardware device to interface to standard video sources. I successfully used this with one of Meade’s electronic eyepieces.

IOXperts provide USB drivers for a number of cameras. This is what I use currently, I suppose because I paid for it, so the remaining drivers are untested.

macam is an open source project to provide drivers for USB cameras and supports a large number of cameras.

ASC delivers both PowerPC and MacIntel drivers for Firewire cameras (check this out with AstroIIDC which is also from

Windoze software — “The Dark Side”

A number of other items are for Windoze but run on Macs under Parallels (or, presumably, Boot Camp). I have tried these but in general do not use them on an active basis.

MaximDL – ouch! many features, mainly for CCD cameras (albeit with a DSLR plugin at US$60), associated with Imaginova, and priced high (US$509, with update subscriptions US$150/yr). Despite the price, I would love to see this running natively on a Mac, but it doesn’t seem likely. The same company also makes MaxDSLR for DSLR (US$299, subscriptions US$100) cameras (and somewhat fewer features), MaxPoint for mount analysis (US$150) and astrometry, and the pricey Boltwood Cloud Sensor (US$ 1200 with minimal cabling, detects clouds, precipitation, light, can close a dome) and the lesser featured Portable Cloud Sensor (US$350, only detects clouds, light, has audio alarms with no computer interface).

Iris – unbeatable price — free — many many features, tough interface. There are frequent updates and enhancements, and if you master the interface this is an amazing piece of software. It’s also a one-man show, which makes me worry about succession problems – What if Christian zigs instead of zagging on the road?

RegiStax – a freeware classic, currently at V4. Start of Version 5 development was announced in January 2008, but no word since.

ImagesPlus low cost at US$179.95 with various upgrade prices from previous versions, this is a powerful piece of work. Demos are available.

Other links

Video for Mac A general list

A no-longer-maintained list of professional level Mac OS X astronomy tools [Sigh. It’s no-longer-available, rather than no-longer-maintained.]

Another list of professional level tools, this one by Ed Edmondson

4 thoughts on “Mac Astronomy Software

  1. Pingback: Starstruck » Blog Archive » Mac Astro Software

  2. Pingback: Mac Astro Software | Starstruck

    • Yes and no. I was aware of Pixinsight, but haven’t been able to work with it. Not an oversight as such, but a reflection of constraints of time, location, and money. Pixinsight offers a 45-day trial license, but to use it properly requires that I have a block of observing time in a reasonably good location. At the moment my permanent site is unusable – too many trees (huh! The damn things grow!) in my neighbors’ yards and too much light from the ever-expanding city. I’m looking for other solutions, but my observing currently is strictly visual – not a good thing, since I have been diagnosed with Fuchs’ Dystrophy and am no longer able to achieve sharp focus with one eye and I’m starting to have difficulty with the other. Imaging is something I could still do, but not from home.

      Pixinsight looks interesting, and once I figure out a way to get back to astrophotography on a regular basis I expect to post more information on it. For the moment I will add it to the page as unevaluated software.

Leave a Reply