Since the publication of Charles Wood’s ‘Lunar 100’, in Sky and Telescope I have become a very keen observer of the Moon. As you probably know, the weather in Ireland is less than ideal for astronomy, so I try and plan carefully my time under clear skies to maximise my time at the eyepiece and minimise reading in the field.
LunarPhase Pro is a utility for Windows which provides a range of information on the Moon and, to a lesser degree, the Sun, graphically displaying the current phase of the moon and lunar data, in real time. Lunarphase Pro needs about 35Mb hard disk space for its installation. The recommended minimum amount of RAM on a PC is 128Mb (this will display the Moon in medium resolution graphics) but 256Mb is required for high-resolution displays. A 500Mhz or faster PC is recommended but some screen load times on calculation-intensive screens will be slow on less-specified PCs. I obtained a review copy of the software via a download rather than getting the CD. I installed the software on a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 PC. Installation is straightforward and finished without incident.
The initial window is clean and uncluttered. The ‘skin’ is chrome-like, it is impossible for the user to change this to give a more conventional Windows ‘feel’. The number of buttons on the toolbar is small, however one of the buttons is entitled Display Menu of Other Functions. This gives an extensive list of other functions, all which really deserve their own icons. While this would increase the ‘busyness’ of the Window, I feel it would be preferable to the current situation. In general, I think that while some users might be unhappy with the non-standard appearance of the User Interface, this departure from the standard Windows ‘look’ looks very high-tech.
There is a downloadable manual which is available to you before you buy the software which I like. The file is a zip file which you extract and view using a browser. Instructions on viewing the manual are provided on the manual’s download page.
LPP is primarily a planning tool for lunar observers and offers an enormous amount of information to assist the observer in this regard. Obviously, it graphically displays the current phase of the moon in real time and displays the times and dates of the major lunar phases for the month. However, it also provides much more information for planning your next night of moongazing, including the real-time position of the moon in both RA/Dec and Alt/Az coordinates, a calendar of lunar phases for each day in the selected month and monthly lunar libration diagrams. It is also possible to display a Lunar visibility diagram for the month showing when the moon is above the horizon and the brightness of the Moon. In addition, the software calculates and displays Moon’s Rise, Set and Transit times. If you see an interesting feature under a particular illumination condition, it is possible to find times and dates when this feature will be under similar illumination, taking into account libration effects. Far-side and North/South Polar features can also be viewed and identified.
Clicking the Lunar Explorer button is the gateway to the mapping functions of this software tool. If you want to take full advantage of the features here, you should activate Use OpenGL and High Resolution Graphics in the configuration screen.
The appearance of the Moon is very realistic once your PC has sufficient graphics capability to take advantage of the maps. Zooming and panning is smooth, although when you zoom in to the maximum, the image quality suffers a little.
The feature identification tool is excellent; however, when you ask the tool to identify a named feature, it places a yellow ring (the colour of which can be changed on the Configuration screen) around the feature which is difficult to see on the lunar surface owing to a lack of contrast, particularly on the illuminated side. Features can also be identified by clicking on the maps; feature information appears in a window at the bottom right of the screen. It’s also possible to label features on the maps with the labelling tool which lets you select which features to label and lets you set different label colours for different types of features. The font characteristics used can be changed as well. You can also identify lists of features, such as Charles Wood’s excellent ‘Lunar 100’. Over 20 different feature lists are provided.
A recent addition to the package is a Feature Search facility which lets you find all features in LPP’s database that match the criteria you set; e.g. A latitude/longitude range, features only within certain sizes or only specific types of feature. Any features returned by the search can be clicked to see where they appear on the maps. Icons also show if there are any observing notes or images associated with the features and you can jump to online web-pages that show satellite images of the selected feature. This is very handy for just getting lists of features within small areas on the Moon.
One very nice feature is that the software allows you to produce a high resolution animation of lunar libration showing how the moon wobbles over the course of a month. If you don’t know what libration is, click this button once and all will be revealed!! It’s a pity that the feature only runs for 1 month, it would be nice if it ran until the user decided to stop it. The Lunar Explorer also lists which lunar features are currently on the moon’s terminator. The utility includes Rukl Chart outlines and a list of features on the chart, a feature which will become of more importance with the imminent re-issue of these charts by Sky and Telescope. Once you have entered the details of your telescope/ eyepiece combination it can emulate the view through your instrument. It is possible to link images to specific lunar features and record your observations in the software in order to keep a permanent record of your observations (there are over 800 observing notes provided with LPP to get you going). Not only is a visible view of the Moon provided, you can choose to view 3 mineral maps, a gravity map and a Clementine image, a nice touch for educational purposes.
LunarPhase Pro is a great observation planning tool for lunar observers or imagers. The utility can teach you a lot about how the Moon orbits the Earth. In addition, it provides near photo-realistic views of the Lunar surface via the Lunar Explorer utility and these can be printed as custom built maps. Support for the software is excellent and the author, Gary Nugent, is very responsive to requests for enhancements.
To conclude, I would highly recommend this software, a steal at only $39.95 with five bucks off if you download rather than get the CD. I bought it!!
Sky & Telescope Review of LunarPhase Pro
– by Gary Seronik
…In a way, LunarPhase Pro is the ultimate Moon observer’s toolkit. Indeed, listing all the program’s capabilities is well beyond the scope of this review, but some highlights are worth noting.
Starting up, LunarPhase Pro displays the main window that, in a single screen, gives just about all the information you would need to plan a night of Moon-gazing. One panel shows the Moon’s current phase, while others give rise, set, and transit times, libration information, twilight times, and a host of other useful data. Want to see what the Moon is doing next week? Easy! just click on the desired date on the calendar in the panel at lower right, and all the information boxes update.
LunarPhase Pro also produces libration graphs that show which limb of the Moon will be most favorably tilted toward us at a given moment. (Unfortunately, the graph does not indicate whether the librated limb is visible or in shadow.) I also like the panel that graphically illustrates the Moon’s changing altitude throughout the night. This is helpful if you’re trying to figure out when the Moon is highest and at its best or whether it will clear your neighbor’s roof.
The program’s vast suite of features would be overwhelming if the user interface weren’t very good. Fortunately it is. Most of the various panels are very cleanly presented with intuitive controls. My only gripe is the lack of ToolTips (explanatory labels that appear when the mouse arrow is moved over toolbar buttons) – especially given some of the cryptic symbols. This quibble aside, LunarPhase Pro is a wonderful program that does it all. LunarPhase Pro is a fantastic planning tool.
Astronomy Now Review of LunarPhase Pro
The moon: big, bright, feature-rich but impeached by many astronomers who fight its glare to view the dim light from far-off galaxies. Far from being a celestial nuisance, the Moon is an object worthy of study says John Rowlands, who finds out what its like to become an old (Lunar Phase).
Many people have come up with various pieces of lunar observing software over the years. LunarPhase Pro is the latest to try and coax our ‘scopes moonward. The single CD-ROM came with no printed instructions, but installation of the 35Mb program was as simple as any other `shove it in the CD drawer and play’ software, and presented no problems. Once up and running, a superbly clear web-style manual is available, containing full instructions, descriptions and graphics of what each screen actually shows.
The general layout of the information on screen is well thought out and tastefully designed in the current trend towards soft, `rounded’ windows graphics. The opening screen presents the current phase of the Moon as seen from your entered latitude and longitude on Earth. Information on the Moon’s age, phase percentage, RA and Dec positions, plus apogee and perigee data, are constantly updated in real time alongside the main Moon diagram. A month-to-view calendar with further real-time updated data on the current position, rise and set times of the Moon and Sun occupy separate boxes on the main page, with another box showing the dates-with graphics – of the four principal phases for the month. The phase for each day of an entire month-to-view calendar is selectable under the `Reports’ menu.
Along the top tool bar, the user can select the view as seen through binoculars, telescope with, or telescope without a 90-degree diagonal. This is a simple but very useful feature that eliminates the need to read lunar maps upside down! The next icon provides a month-to-view screen of rise, transit, and set times for the Moon, together with phase percentage and the start and end times for astronomical, nautical and civil twilight.
The real power of LunarPhase Pro becomes apparent under the `Reports’ icon. Here, the user can select a variety of graphical and textual information on various aspects. Daily View, for example, shows a very clear, easy-to-understand diagram of the position of the Moon and Sun on the sky, together with their numeric altitude and azimuth positions for each hour of the currently selected day. Allied to this is the Lunar Visibility diagram that graphically represents the phase of the Moon throughout the month using bars of varying thickness traversing a simple day/night background.
Principal lunar features are listed in an extensive tabulated database of over 1600 craters, with separate listings of valleys, sinuses, seas, lakes, and so on taking the total to 1,961 individual features. This includes lunar latitude and longitude, diameter, and a short history on the people and characters immortalised by the naming of a lunar feature. Incredibly, the lunar sunrise and set times are available in tabulated form for every single listed feature – an amazingly useful tool for planning observations of features coming into and out of light. Not surprisingly, this volume of calculation took about 15 seconds on my ageing 400MHz PC, but should not prove too much of a distraction on more recent, faster machines.
The `Reports’ menu is rounded off with basic physical data on the Moon, equinox dates, and dates of Easter Sunday (though no information was presented for other Moon-dependant religious events such as Ramadan, for example). The lunar eclipse table coped admirably both backwards in time to year 1, and forwards to extremes like 9000AD! Sadly, it is not possible to go back beyond year 1, which could be a useful extension for future releases of the software.
The so-called `Lunar Explorer’ is the main body of the program and is again very well presented and thoughtfully laid out. Three user-selectable graphics resolutions provide from good to near-photographic detail of both the near and far sides of the Moon. A crosshair cursor shows current latitude and longitude, and a click on a particular feature identifies the name, size, historical information and sunrise/sunset data. Lunar latitude and longitude grids can be overlaid on the maps if required.
Perhaps the most heavily used tool will be the `find-a-feature’ capability. All databases can be displayed alongside the main map, and a click on any of the listed features will highlight it with a yellow ring. Another useful tool is the table of features currently lying along the terminator.
Extensive comparison against the Royal Astronomical Society’s authoritative Moon maps in The Atlas of the Solar System showed the mapping to be accurate and feature identification reliable. There is a variable `zoom’ feature and the programme allows a full disk or quadrant view in spherical and mercator projections, though I found spherical provides much better feature resolution. Polar plots are also available. Some craters down to about 13km in diameter could be resolved by the feature identification on the near side map, but typically only to about 40km on the far side.
A beautiful feature of the program is the animation of the Moon through the month. This shows the changing phases, plus the quite considerable effects of libration – principally due to the elliptical nature of the orbit – as the Moon oscillates in latitude and longitude as seen from the Earth. In total, this allows 59% of the Moon to be visible from Earth.
LunarPhase Pro is completed with the ability to print out quality maps and tables as displayed on-screen, and a menu of web-based resources for further Moon observing and exploration information.
Back to the Moon?
Does LunarPhase Pro offer anything more than a good Moon-observer’s book and paper maps provide? Well, if you want every last piece of up-to-the-second data on the Moon, and want to plan your observing sessions in advance then yes, the software will give you everything you need to know and more. If you’re new to astronomy or, like me, more of a casual Moon observer, then the powerful database linked to feature finding and identification will prove much more convenient than trawling through paper maps under low light. In comparison to other Moon observing software I’ve seen, LunarPhase Pro is streets ahead.
The program is now in revision 1.50. In future releases it may want to include more database detail to satisfy the most serious of lunar observers. As it stands, it’s excellent value for money and perfectly suited to beginners and those whose main observing activity lies beyond the Moon.
– Astronomy Now
Popular Astronomy Magazine Review of LunarPhase Pro
– by Peter Grego
LunarPhase Pro aims to be a complete toolkit to help plan observations and find out information about the Moon. It doesn’t have a conventional Windows look-instead, it has a slick but unfussy interface that invites button pushing from the moment the main screen appears. Thankfully, the program is user friendly and fairly intuitive, with large icons that indicate each buttons’ function.
The program displays the current lunar phase, the phases of the current lunation or any other date chosen, with libration taken fully into account. A striking illustration of the progress of lunar phases and the effects of libration can be had by simply choosing a whole-disk view in the lunar explorer window (phase selected) and press the play forward arrow – the Moon begins its libratory wobble before your very eyes, shifting in position to the diurnal motion of the observer combined with the effects of libration.
In addition to providing good graphics, the program is sophisticated enough for advanced observers, and provides lots of data – all of it immensely useful when planning observations or researching observations or circumstances. A database of almost 2,000 lunar features is included, with local sunrise/sunset times at those features – an excellent feature. The detailed, printable maps are based on textures developed by JPL, although the shading is unaltered whatever the phase depicted. The maps can be orientated to suit your telescope setup and can be zoomed in.
Data on lunar eclipses, colongitude, apsides, rise/transit/set times, position, angular diameter – and lot’s more, too – is provided. I can’t think of anything really important that the program neglects to include.
If you want accurate lunar data at your fingertips, and/or you are a lunar observer, I recommend this program. It will undoubtedly enhance your lunar observing experience.
“Lunar Observing Yahoo Group”‘s Review of LunarPhase Pro
– by Chuck Taylor – Moderator: Lunar-Observing List
Do you remember when you were a kid and wanted one of those fancy Swiss Army Knifes? There in one red package you could have a saw, scissors, tweezers, toothpick, bottle opener, file, slotted and philips screwdriver and even a knife blade! Well LunarPhase Pro (LPP) doesn’t have the fat red case, but it does take the same approach to Lunar software.
The opening screen shows the moon with current phase and the correct libration, with a marker for the point on the lunar limb that currently is at maximum libration. This view can be set for flipped or inverted views, depending on what you use to observe the moon. Around that are listed the time and dates for the four different quarters (new, half, full, half), percentage of the moon currently illuminated, age, current distance, RA & DEC, Alt & Az, angular diameter, time and date of apogee and perigee, time of today’s moonrise, moonset and transit, sunrise, sunset and sun-transit time, twilight start and ending time (civil, nautical and astronomical) and colongitude. Additionally, a table of libration data adds North-South libration, East-West libration, degree of maximum libration, position angle for that libration and the moon’s current position angle. But even more amazing is that all of this data is clear and available at a glance, due to the clear layout employed.
A dropdown menu accesses features to find lunar eclipses within a specified timeframe, display a calendar with phase for each day, lunar features database, Equinox & Solstice dates, Internet links, basic lunar data and other features which will be described below.
As I mentioned, the opening screen tells the current libration, both graphically and in table form. LPP corrects its maps for the current libration.
LPP takes it several steps farther. Clicking on the Moon Explorer button brings up a large image of the moon with current libration. But if you click on the start arrow, the phase and libration shifts to the first of the month. From there, it plays like a movie, with the terminator moving across the surface and the moon shifting to show the proper libration at each point. A clock at top shows the date and time for each frame in the animation. At this point in the review process I ceased to be a lunar observer, and became a kid with a new toy. This has to be the coolest feature! There in front of you sits the moon, rocking back and forth with the small libration changes caused by the observer’s movement as the earth rotates. And overall is the much larger movement of a month’s worth of libration changes, played out before you. It is fun to just sit and watch favorite craters move up into view and back towards the limb. Even more centrally located craters like Tycho, Plato or the larger Mare Crisium move in and out, changing in apparent shape as they go. I confess I played with this for a long time before moving on to checking out the other features!
Along with the libration movie and the libration data on the initial screen, there is a clear graph showing the direction and amount of libration for each day of the month. This can be presented for a geocentric position or your actual geographical location. Again, the small loops caused by the earth rotating the observer from horizon to horizon are superimposed on the larger monthly libration movements. Those wanting to observe features in the libration zones can quickly print out the libration results for the full month.
LPP presents the actual libration for the current moment but also gives you additional tools and data for planning your observing sessions.
This is illustrated by the second major feature I discovered (and the one that is rapidly becoming my favorite). Instead of simply listing lunar features, LPP presents them with the date and time for sunrise and sunset at each of those features. Printing this out is a big help for planning. For example, in writing this month’s Lunar Feature of the Month [LFM] (on Tycho) I wanted to point out a swirl of craters that are near Tycho. They are only prominent for a few hours, when the terminator has passed them but not gone much farther. Looking up a crater that was where the terminator would be for best viewing of this cluster of craters, I checked LPP and found the date and time (my own local time) of sunrise for that crater. This was then included in the LFM article, as well as in my own observing session plans. In the same manner, if you wanted to observe or photograph Rupes Recta at sunrise, a quick check would tell you when sunrise will occur. I am presently printing out the sunrise and sunset data for all the listed features each month. It only takes a couple of pages but is very helpful!
The accompanying visibility charts also help with planning by showing how high above the horizon the moon will be at those particular times of sunrise or sunset on the features I want to observe. Also listed are the moonrise, moonset and transit times for each day of the month in question.
Once you go out to the scope, the Lunar Explorer Screen will come into play. This presents a map of the moon, corrected for libration. The map and the ability to identify features works both directions. That is, you can click on a feature on the map, and LPP will give you the name and information about that feature. Or, you can go through a list of features and click on a name. The corresponding feature will then be highlighted on the map. Lists are broken down into 19 categories, including craters, maria, spacecraft landing sites, domes and rima. An additional category lists all of those items which are currently on the terminator.
Easily accessed buttons scroll the display to center the section you want to observe. A slider at the top will change the zoom so you can zoom in on a detail, or drop back to have the full moon in the display. Shortcut buttons will zoom to the 4 lunar quadrants and a North or South Pole view.
An additional feature is the map of the moon’s far side. LPP is the only one to include this interesting (and fun!) ability. All of the features work on the far side so you can zoom in, pan, identify features etc. The map can also be flipped or inverted to show the view as it will appear in your scope.
LPP is outstanding value. LPP adds a great lineup of tools to plan your observing sessions (lunar feature sunrise/sunset times, visibility charts, libration charts), as well as the cool libration movie. The cost is only $40. You can also download a simpler version (Lunar Phase) as shareware ($30 registration and any registered LP user can later upgrade to LPP for $15). Bear in mind that this is a simpler version and does not have all of the planning features of LunarPhase Pro. I think you will find the additional features in LPP to be worth the $40 expense.
Clear Skies and enjoy the Moon!
Astronomy Magazine’s Review of LunarPhase Pro
– by Richard J. Bartlett
If your target tonight is the Moon, try focusing on some new lunar software before you take aim. LunarPhase Pro by Gary Nugent gives you all the information you need to get started. More than just an almanac, the software calculates which part of the Moon faces Earth (slight distortions in the Moon’s shape cause 59 percent of its surface – not an even half – to be visible over a period Of 30 years). It also displays the circumstances of lunar eclipses, compares the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky, and provides links to websites of interest. An interactive map allows you to identify features on both the near and dark sides of the Moon. Despite a few minor operating errors, it’s nicely designed and quite versatile, making LunarPhase Pro useful to observers of all levels.
Irish Astronomical Association’s Review of LunarPhase Pro
– by Terry Moseley – Pres. Irish Astronomical Association
Many of you will know Gary Nugent, currently President of the Irish Astronomical Society in Dublin. Gary has written an extremely useful and comprehensive lunar software programme, telling and showing you just about everything you could want to know for observing the Moon. Much more than just a map with 1,961 identified features, and showing the phase, displayed in real time, it gives visibility of features allowing for libration, which can amount to a maximum of about 11 degrees, and can transform the visibility of features near the lunar limb. It gives circumstances of lunar eclipses to keep any future eclipse observer happy. It shows the relative positions of the Sun & Moon, and provides a map for features on both the near and far sides of the Moon, so you can relate to photos of the far side, and get a better picture of limb features. Maps & charts can be printed for eyepiece use.
It calculates sunrise & sunset times for all its 1,961 named features. Monthly ephemerides can be generated, Spacecraft landing sites are indicated, and there are links to websites.
Some minor early operating bugs have been eliminated in the V1.20 upgrade which is now available. Any version bought now should work on all systems. Further upgrades, and any future bug-killers will be available for downloading. Its quite user-friendly, even for a computer amateur like me, and will enhance your understanding of our nearest neighbour, as well as helping you to get the best from your observing of it.
No matter what your interest in the Moon is,
this package has something to offer you. Order it today!
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