SkySafari for Mac OS X Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to the most frequently asked questions about SkySafari for Mac OS X.

  1. I want to buy SkySafari Pro for Mac OS X on the Mac App Store, but you only sell it though your web site. Why?

    We initially submitted all three versions of SkySafari for Mac OS X to the Mac App Store. Apple rejected all three because we were "spamming" the app store with "too many versions" of the same program. So, we withdrew our Pro version from the Mac App Store. Instead, we distributed it from our own web site, using eSellerate's purchase and licensing system.

    You can still purchase SkySafari and SkySafari Plus for Mac OS X through the Mac App Store. But for the forseeable future, SkySafari Pro for Mac OS X will only be distributed from our web site, due to Apple's policy.

  2. I want to buy a serial number for SkySafari Pro without having to download and install the app first. How can I do that?

    Normally, you'd purchase a SkySafari Pro serial number from within the application. But if you can't do this for some reason, or if you want to purchase site license packs of multiple SkySafari Pro serial numbers, then you can purchase serial numbers directly from eSellerate's web site, using your web browser. Your serial number(s) will be emailed to you after your purchase is complete.

    Click this link to purchase a SkySafari Pro serial number, or site license packs of multiple SkySafari Pro serial numbers.

  3. I'm trying to purchase a SkySafari Pro serial number, but the software won't activate. Or, I get an error message which says the eSellerate Engine cannot be installed. Help!

    Here are some things to try:

    • Make sure you are running the software from a user account on your Mac with administrative privileges. If your account does not have Admin privileges, it won't work.

    • Make sure the following directories exist and have write permission for your user account:

        /Library/Application Support/Mindvision
        /Library/Frameworks

      For various reasons, software updaters (especially Apple's!) sometimes diddle with permission settings on system directories.

    • If you have any anti-virus or firewall software running on your Mac, temporarily disable it while activating the software. That can also interfere with the activation.

    • If all else fails, eSellerate has its own engine updater. You can download and run a copy from this page.

    If you're still having trouble, please email us, and we'll help you out.

  4. I'm trying to purchase a SkySafari Pro serial number, but I see an additional download service charge. What is this? How do I get rid of it?

    By default, eSellerate offers a USD $4.99 "Extended Download" service when you purchase a new serial number. This lets you download SkySafari Pro from eSellerate's servers for up to a month after you've purchased the serial number. It's not required if you downloaded SkySafari Pro from our web site. If you don't want this extended download service, you can delete it from your order by clicking the small trash can icon in the "Remove" column for this line item.

  5. I purchased a SkySafari Pro serial number, but I lost it! Can you email it to me?

    You can recover your lost serial number yourself, from eSellerate's support page. You need to remember the email address you used when you purchased the serial number, and your eSellerate Order ID. If you don't have your Order ID, eSellerate can email it to you (but you do need to remember the email address you used when you purchased the serial number).

  6. I have more than one Mac computer (or I bought a new Mac). Can I run SkySafari for Mac OS X on more than one Mac?

    Yes. You can activate and run SkySafari Pro on up to three Mac computers with a single serial number. You may wish to deactivate SkySafari Pro on one computer before activating it on another - see this page for details.

    If you bought SkySafari or SkySafari Plus from the Mac App Store, you should be able to download it again onto any other Mac computer that is authorized for your iTunes account, free of charge. But it needs to be the same iTunes account as on the computer where you first bought the software!

  7. I already bought your iOS version of SkySafari for my iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. Can I get a free copy of (or discount on) the Mac OS X version?

    No. SkySafari for Mac OS X is a complete rewrite of our iOS app, running on a computer with a different kind of processor, under a separate operating system with a very different user interface. Our Mac and iOS apps are sold through different app stores. Even if we could offer you discount, Apple won't let us.

    We hope that this won't dissuade you from purchasing our Mac version separately. Most desktop astronomy programs competing at SkySafari's level of sophistication cost hundreds of dollars - ours is priced, like our iPhone apps, at the cost of a pizza. At these very low prices, we hope that SkySafari for Mac OS X will provide you with tremendous value, in spite of being a separate purchase.

  8. How does SkySafari for Mac OS X differ from SkySafari for iOS?

    Feature-wise, they are very similar. SkySafari for Mac OS X can do a few things that the iOS version can't (like print hard-copy sky charts), and vice-versa (like use the compass/accelerometer - which don't exist in desktop Macs - to give you a "live view" of the sky.) You can find a complete list of the differences between the versions of SkySafari for Mac OS X on this page, and SkySafari for iOS on this page.

    However, SkySafari for Mac OS X has a completely rewritten user interface, with 100% native Cocoa Mac OS X controls. It "looks and feels" like a proper Mac OS X application, just like SkySafari for iOS "looks and feels" like a proper iPhone app. And the experience of running SkySafari on a Mac with a full-sized monitor, keyboard, and mouse is qualitatively different from running it on a tiny iPhone screen. We've already brought SkySafari's fluidity and smoothness from the iPhone to the Mac, and the much faster processor and graphics card in your Mac will make it run that much better.

    Our best suggestion is just to try out the basic version of SkySafari for Mac OS X. It only costs a few dollars, and if you like it, there's more where that came from!

  9. I have a planetarium dome, and a projector with a fish-eye mirror. Can I project SkySafari's output onto my planetarium screen?

    Yes! Paul Bourke has created instructions for how to warp SkySafari's output for projection onto any planetarium dome using Quartz Composer.

    Using a Mac with such a projector, the Mac's primary screen lets the planetarium operator control all display functions. Isolate the control panels and menu bar to the primary screen. Use the projector as the second display, letting the warped sky display on the projector at a resolution of 1200 x 1200 or larger.

  10. I'm searching for Comet X or Asteroid Y, but it's not in your database. How can I find it?

    Recently-discovered comets and asteroids may not be present in SkySafari's original database. To add them, go to the Settings menu's Solar System item. Then tap the Update Orbit Data button. This will import the latest asteroid/comet data from the Minor Planet Center. If you still can't find your asteroid or comet, the MPC may not yet have added it to its export files. Try again in a few days.

    Please note: this feature is only present in SkySafari Plus and Pro. It is not available in the basic version.

  11. I'm trying to observe a satellite, or the International Space Station. But SkySafari's predictions for where the satellite is/when it passes overhead are wildly wong. What's the problem?

    Your satellite orbital elements are probably out of date. To update them, select to the Settings menu's Solar System item, then tap the Update Orbit Data button at the bottom. This will import the latest satellite data from the CelesTrak. Satellite orbits change rapidly due to atmospheric drag, and due to perturbations from the Earth's non-spherical gravity field, so it's important to update your orbit data frequently - at least once a week - to get accurate predictions for them.

    Please note: this feature is only present in SkySafari Plus and Pro. It is not available in the basic version.

  12. You also might want to make sure that your location, time zone, date/time, etc. are correct - if you've accidentally set your observing location to California, but you're really in Colorado, that will make a big difference!

  13. SkySafari is predicting a rise/set time for the Sun/Moon/some other object which is clearly wrong. Is it broken?

    No - this is really basic celestial mechanics that has been tested many times over by our users. The problem is almost certainly that your location, time zone, or the date/time are set incorrectly. Go to SkySafari's Settings view to adjust them.

    If your Mac's WiFi is turned off, SkySafari may be unable to determine your current location. A common symptom of this problem is that your latitude, longitude, and time zone are all zero. To correct this, make sure your Mac's WiFi is turned on, and that you are connected to the internet. Even then, auto-location using WiFi may fail - in that case, just enter your location manually.

    If rise/set times are off by exactly one hour, the problem is almost certainly that your time zone is incorrect, or that SkySafari thinks daylight savings time is in effect when it really isn't (or vice versa). Governments frequently change the rules for Daylight Savings Time, and while we try to keep up with them, we may have missed something. You can manually set your time zone, and turn SkySafari's automatic daylight savings time correction ON or OFF, in SkySafari's Settings > Date & Time view.

  14. I'm running SkySafari on my Mac Pro, and all I see is a jumbled screen, not a proper sky display. What's going on?

    Earlier versions of SkySafari for Mac OS X had trouble displaying the sky chart on Macs where the default font (Arial) could not be loaded. This problem has been addressed in version 1.0.4. If you are running a version of SkySafari for Mac OS X older than 1.0.4, update to the latest version.

    If you're still experiencing this situation after updating to the latest version, please email us! We'd greatly appreciate your help in tracking this down.

  15. I'm using SkySafari to control my telescope. But the directional arrows don't work - I get an error message that says "Use the telescope's hand controller". What's up?

    Some telescopes (for example, the Celestron Ultima 2000 and original NexStar 5/8; and the Argo Navis) lack external commands for directional motion. Even though they are mechanically capable of doing so, their control language has no command to (for example) "move north" or "move south". When these telescopes' manufacturers add those commands, we will be happy to support them!

  16. How do I get my own horizon panorama into SkySafari? Can you show me an example?

    Read the Help file included with the program, under the Settings > Horizon & Sky section! Briefly: first use a program like Photoshop to create a panorama from individual pictures. Your finished horizon panorama must be a 4096 x 2048 pixel image in PNG format, with alpha (transparency) indicating clear sky vs. opaque ground. North is at the left edge; south is in the middle. Then go to the Horizon & Sky settings in SkySafari, click the + button next to the menu of panoramas, browse to the select your panorama PNG file, and open it.

    Here's an example, sent to us with permission by Roger Greenwood in Massachusetts, USA. Click the preview image below to view the full-sized PNG, which you can import into SkySafari as an example:

    Click the preview image above to view and download the full-sized PNG of Roger's Back Yard.

    Joshua Bury, creator of the Observer Pro iOS app, has created a web-based application that converts a numerical horizon representation (altitude/azimuth points saved as an Observer Pro .hzn file) into to a panorama that can be used in SkySafari. It's not as accurate as a well-done photographic panorama, but it is really easy to create, especially if you've used Observer Pro to measure your horizon.

  17. The horizon is not visible! But I've got "show horizon and sky" checked, and/or a panorama selected, in my Horizon & Sky Settings. What's wrong?

    If you're running SkySafari Plus or Pro, make sure your coordinate system is set to Horizon coordinates. Look in your Coordinates settings. If set to Equatorial, Ecliptic, or Galactic coordinates, the horizon will not be shown. This is deliberate - these other coordinate systems do not align to your local horizon, so it would appear skewed at a wierd angle. A printed star chart uses equatorial coordinates, and does not show the horizon either. SkySafari is no different.

  18. The sky chart is covered with hundreds of labels for satellites/comets/asteroids, and I can't get rid of them! Is that a bug?

    No, you have just turned on highliting for an object list. Look for a small green list icon at the bottom of the sky chart, and click it. That will bring you to the object list that is highlited. Switch off the hilighting, and the labels will go away.

    This feature is intended to let you quickly see where all objects in a particular list - for example, Messier objects, or an observing list that you've created - are located in the sky. You might have highlighted that list by accident. The green list icon always brings you back to the list that is highlited.