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Starplot is another free UNIX/Linux toy for science fiction writers that shows the nearby stellar neighborhood in a display you can rotate in any direction. Click on a sun and the chart re-centers itself on it. Click on buttons to hide or show dimmer stars based on a threshold magnitude. Find the distance between any two systems. Print the results to a .PNG file.

Whereas I can get spacechart to install under Debian, I can't get it to work under Hacky Linux even after resolving a chain of seventeen dependencies in a tedious process that took about two hours. So starplot is the only program of this type that I have.

There are two databases available, one is the Gliese catalog that has 3803 stars within 25 parsecs of Earth. The other is the Yale catalog that has 9096 stars brighter than magnitude 6.5. All of this data was obtained by earthbound observations. There is also the Hipparcos data, obtained automatically by a satellite. It has about 300,000 stars brighter than magnitude 8.0 but it was some work getting it converted to a format that starplot could read.

First I had to get the raw data from an FTP site, stored in 23 .gz files, and gunzip them. Then I renamed them one by one to 1.dat, 2.dat, etc. Then I concatenated them into a single catalog.dat file by using cat *.dat >>catalog.dat and put them in the sky2000-4-0.95 folder with the spec file. Then I typed starpkg sky2000-4-0.95 and it converted the data to a .stars file that starplot could read. The website linked above warned that it was so much data that it would really slow down starplot but Hacky Linux seems to eat it for lunch.

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