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KStars 3.5

Stars, such as our sun, go through dramatic changes: From an initial particle cloud 4.5 billion years ago full of gravitational potential energy, to its transformation via thermal energy, to its current main sequence state. From here, the sun will potentially become a red giant, a white dwarf, and then finally a black dwarf, a process that could take another 5 billion years. But even in two years, things can change. A new solar minimum, powerful solar flares, and coronal mass ejections have all occurred over the last couple of years. But there have been other developments over that period that are almost as significant; for one, there's a new version of KStars, one of the best tools for exploring the solar system and beyond from your humble Linux box.

Like our sun, KStars goes through cycles of activity and inactivity, and this is a period of activity. The new release is worlds away from the KStars that seemed statically linked to the KDE 3 and KDE 4 desktops. It's now a tool capable of some serious exploring, rather than a tool that nicely rendered the night sky. A new solving algorithm, StellarSolver, has been retooled to work inside KStars, and it brings with it all kinds of improvements, including fewer dependencies, configuration files, and temporary files. It also enables improved Ekos integration, for example, helping you automate telescope guidance as well as make sense of any images you take, without requiring any external applications. The FITS astronomical data viewer too now supports image formats like JPEG, PNG, and RAW files from many DSLR cameras, helping you do more from a single application. The application itself is still one of the best planetarium applications, now with wonderfully accelerated OpenGL hardware acceleration, freely downloadable star catalogs containing millions of targets, and even an Android version for stargazing on the go.

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Thanks to a slew of new features, KStars is now an application capable of supporting some serious all-night observation sessions.

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