Real-World Computing: Astronomy

One of the simplest applications of computers in astronomy is the generation and display of star charts. The position of the stars in the sky is easily predictable based on the rotation of the earth and your observing position. There is a plethora of software available to display current astronomical information on your computer. I use XEphem but there are many other choices.


A great way to use a computer in astronomy is in processing astrophotography images. With a CCD camera and a telescope, you can take pictures of the sky that are much more detailed than what the human eye can see. When you take a series of pictures of the same patch(es) of sky over time, you can identify moving bodies such as asteroids and comets. Every year or so there is news of yet another asteroid approaching earth - this is how they are discovered.

I have a telescope but no CCD camera. One of these days, I'll acquire some more hardware and make my telescope useful.

Greg Hewgill <>