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Starcharts, starcharts, my kingdom for good starsharts!

As my wife will certainly attest to, I'm a bit particular about details in my stories. For example, there's an opening scene in Outsystem where Tanis switches her rifle to fire a proton beam to destroy an enemy position. While it seems like a tiny bit of minutia, I did many hours of research to determine that most theoretical energy weapons deliver beams of either photons or electrons. These deliver their destructive power in the form of pure energy creating heat, or energy and a little bit of kinetic impact (in the case of electrons--though those mostly just emit more photons at the point of impact). However, a proton energy weapon is going to have some kick to it since protons have significantly more mass than electrons. In some respects its a combo rail/energy weapon that has significant kinetic impact as well as energy dispersion. It's also positively charged vs negatively charged. A lot changes.

In that same vein, I tend to over-research stars. While a lot of stories and books will say throw about star names like Sirius, Altair and Rigel, little is done to determine their precise proximity to one another, travel times for ships with specified newtons of thrust and masses. While I don't do extensive math on these things, I do take the time to rough out travel times between the stars, and in the case of the Intrepid I work it out very precisely. As a result I need pretty good star charts and there aren't a lot of those out there. What often occurs is that they are too basic, or too fancy. Basic ones are flat, not 3D, so stars that appear to be very close together could be dozens of light years apart. More advanced ones typically become simulators like Celestia--which is amazing--but not terribly useful when it comes down to visualizing large areas in space.

I used to use CHView which is an old Java program that showed stars, their relative positions and the distances between them, but that doesn't run on windows 8 and higher. It also takes some serious work to even the web viewer to load on modern browsers (and won't work in chrome at all). It was great because you can edit the data files and NASA also had .chv files that contained tens of thousands of stars.

If you visit http://www.solstation.com you can see screenshots of some of the things chview could do and if you have Windows XP or 7, chances are that the interactive charts will still load.

Anyway, if anyone knows of some really good star-chart software in the same vein as chview, I would be very happy to learn of it.

Why? I am plotting out the order in which the FGT ships began terraforming near stars and while working out their distances from Sol and one another isn't too hard, there are groupings of stars in certain directions that make some more attractive than others.

Comment here or ping me on Twitter or Facebook if you know of any.

In the meantime I'll fire up a Windows XP VM...

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