Stargazing: Astronomy software is just amazing

When I married my wife Julie I inherited some close family friends of hers: the Bisque family. A big family with so many names that I’ll just focus on the 4 brothers who I have deep respect for: Steve, Tom, Dan, and Matt.

In 1991 when I first met the guys at Software Bisque, they had two products: A DOS based astronomy packaged called The_Sky and some funky financial modelling package they had built for my father-in-law. The_Sky was the cool thing. It had an amazing graphics engine that could display a real-time view of the universe above using real data. You could click on any object (star, planet, whatever) and get more information. You could change the perspective, zoom in/out, etc… I’m not really into astronomy, but I loved playing with it. 

At the time I was a developer support engineer for the Windows SDK and I gave the Bisque brothers a copy of the Windows 3.0 SDK. About 4 weeks later Dan called me to tell me they had ported The_Sky to Windows!

Recently SoftwareBisque released TheSky Six, the 6th version of TheSky (along the way they lost the space in SoftwareBisque and the underscore in The_Sky). If you have any interest in astronomy you owe it to yourself to check out TheSky (and their other products). They have a Pocket PC version as well.

Last week I was in Colorado on vacation with the Bisques. We were at a “resort” called Budges White River Resort deep in the mountains of Western Colorado. Roughly a 2 hour 4×4 drive from Eagle CO. Tom Bisque had his SoftwareBisque powered telescope up there and we did some amazing stargazing. Here’s how it worked:

  • I said “Tom, I’d like to see a galaxy on edge.”
  • Tom would say to Steve, “How about NGC4565?”
  • Steve would say, “Yea, that’s probably visible tonight.”
  • Tom would sit down at the laptop in the tent, and using TheSky would right-click on the object labelled NGC4565 and choose the command to tell the telescope to slew to it.
  • The un-believably cool, red-anodized-finely-machined-aluminium Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount would “whirr” for a few seconds like a robot on an assembly line and then stop.
    Paramount ME. Art and Engineering
  • I’d look through the eyepiece, and smack dab in the center was NGC4565 in all it’s glory. A galaxy a bazillion miles away, on edge, looking just like a flying saucer.
  • While I watched I could hear the slight hum of the Paramount as it carefully kept the telescope pointed at NGC4565. I could have watched for an hour and it would have stayed dead center in the eyepiece!

We did this over and over with nebulae, galaxies, binary stars, star clusters, and so forth.

Tom didn’t have it setup, but if he did, we could have taken CCD images of what we were looking at and viewed them right on the laptop. It would have looked like this:

 
Check out this page for tons of pictures that were taken with TheSky powered telescopes.
 
The telescope setup Tom had up there was worth about $20,000 including the base, the Paramount ME, the CCD camera, and the laptop. Just 5-10 years ago a telescope setup with the accuracy and capabilities of this setup would have cost easily $500K to $1M.
 
The innovative software that the Bisque brother’s have built, on Windows, is enabling an order of magnitude more people to view deeply into the sky in amazing new ways!  One guy discovered 5 (five!) comets using their software. Universities and other institutions are using TheSky to control Paramount ME enabled telescopes remotely over the Internet! (check out www.ibisque.com for details on SoftwareBisque’s program for this). I just think that’s cool, and I’m thankful that I am friends with them.
 
 
© Charlie Kindel. All Rights Reserved.

4 comments


  1. I have been a casual user of TheSky since it was The_Sky, and while I loved it then, I am absolutley thrilled with it now. I’ve not yet gotten v6, but have seen a few samples and I’m chomping at the bit to get it and play. With just a little time and practice, TheSky makes it possible for anyone with a half-decent computer to learn more about astonomy than any undergrad level astronomy class ever could. You don’t even need a telescope, although having one, along with the suite of software these talented people have created, will enhance the power of TheSky to take your knowledge and ability to nearly unlimited levels.

    I have had the pleasure of meeting the Brothers Bisque on more than one ocasion, and have always found them to be among the most down to Earth people I’ve ever met. The fact that SoftwareBisque is a family business is readily evident in every facet of the business, from the warm and inviting decor of their headquarters in Golden, to the fact that a phone call to their offices might just as easily be answered by Steve (The President), as oneoof his employees. The friendly, casual atmosphere of their office and staff belies the professional quality of their products and staff.

    Well done, Brothers Bisque. Well done indeed. Keep up the good work, and thank you for doing so much to make the wonders and thrills of and astromony so readily available to rank amatures like me. May you enjoy every success. You deserve it!

  2. Looks like an impressive piece of software. You might want to check out Celestia – a very cool space-flight simulation app. Its at http://www.shatters.net/celestia/

  3. http://

    hello,

    my name is Steve and I have been trying to contact Budges white river resort for a vacation. If you have there contact info could you please email it to me.

    Thanks blessteve@yahoo.com

  4. Budge’s is under new management and is operating under the original name of Budge’s White River Resort.

    Visit http://www.budgeswhiteriverresort.com for all your stargazing, summer vacations, horseback riding, mountain hiking, guided and unguided elk and mule deer hunting, and trout fishing needs.

    Regards,

    The Webmaster at Budge’s

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