XEphem is a wonderful Astronomy program for Unix and Linux! It capabilities are far beyond the commercial Windows and Mac offerings. It's written by Elwood Downey and can be had on CD with supporting documentation and databases from the Clear Sky Institute. Since I am running Linux and MacOSX on PowerPC based systems, I have compiled XEphem for them.
Starting with OSX version 10.3 you can easily compile XEphem using xcode and the xcode X11 sdk, Apples X11, and the Mac Ports connection.

1) Make sure your installation is up to date (10.4.11 or newer)
2) Download xcode (2.4.1 is current for 10.4) from the Apple developer website (free to join, free to download xcode). Install xcode AND the X11 sdk.
3) Download and install Macports
4) After installing macports you should open a terminal and if you do echo $PATH at the prompt you should see /opt/local/bin in the path. If you don't, create or add to .profile in your home directory and add the following line
export PATH=/opt/local/bin:$PATH
close and open the terminal again. You should now see /opt/local/bin in your path.
5) Change to root (type in sudo -s and your password when prompted). Next, type in
port -v install xephem
and port will download and install all of the needed packages for xephem and finally xephem itself.
6)Finally you can run xephem by starting X11 then in the X11 terminal type
You can add xephem to your X11 applications menu if you wish.
Now you just need to download and install your databases. Of course you could also buy xephem from the Elwood's site and get all of this plus the databases done for you!

Everything below is out of date and is only for archival purposes!

If you have OSX version 10.1.3 (or newer) you can now download the Xserver, an Aqua like front end and XEphem all from the Apple site in a easy to install package format. This makes it easy to integrate XEphem (and other unix apps) into the Aqua desktop! The screen dump of Dragan Bajs' machine below demonstrates this nicely. What you need to do is:

1) Make sure your installation is up to date (10.1.3 or newer)
2) Download and Install the XFree86 package
3) Download and install OroboOSX
4) Download and install XEphem
5) Optional (but nice) edit your OroborOSX launch menu
a) From the OrboroOSX launch menu, select edit launch menu items
b) Double-click on the template file to open it in textedit
c) Change the appname from xterm to xephem
d) Uncomment (remove the # sign) from the usepath line and change the entry to /usr/local/bin
e) Remove the arguments in the argnums entry so it just looks like "" DO NOT delete this entry!
d) Change the titlename to XEphem
e) Save the template AS XEphem.x11app. When asked to append the txt extension, don't append!
f) Quit textedit
g) From the OroborOSX launch menu, do a Rebuild Launch Menu

Now XEphem will be in your launch menu!!

Congratulations, you are up and running!

I'm going to leave the following for reference purposes as well as providing a version that will still run under the 10.0.x versions of OSX.

Important Note: The latest release of XFree86 is 4.2.0 and the single package download of it at sourceforge includes XDarwin but it does not work with xephem on OSX. Hopefully this will get sorted out soon. Stay tuned!

XEphem for Mac OSX. Requires XFree86 4.1.0 for Darwin (versions as old as 4.0.2 also work). There is more info on this at the XonX site. The XDarwin app allows easy use of the Xwindow system under Aqua now including ROOTLESS WINDOWS! For an alternative see the Tenon X-TOOLS which also uses Aqua as a display device for the X server. The Tenon product is a commercial venture but there is a demo version so you can see how it works. This version of XEphem works perfectly when run under XFree86 4.1.0 with XDarwin. Here is a view of Helmut Schillinger's iBook running XEphem and a view of Dragan Bajs' running XEphem on his iMac DV.

Here is the recently released 3.5.2 tarball using openmotif for OSX 10.1 Use gnutar xvzf xephem3.5.2.osx.tgz in the / directory to unarchive it.


OpenMotif 3.4 MacOSX tarball. Runs on all versions of Mac OSX from the Public Beta up through 10.0.4. Copy this to your / directory in a root shell and do gnutar xvzf xephem3.4.osx.tgz. The executable will be /usr/bin/xephem.


A couple of hints on using these in OSX. The twm window manager is ugly and it is the default display when bringing up X with XDarwin. Here is a quick improvement. Create a file in your normal user home directory called .xinitrc (notice it's got a dot in front of it!). In this file put the following....

xterm -iconic -sb &

This way you will get an XEphem window when you startup XDarwin and a nice xterm waiting around as an icon at the bottom of your screen. I REALLY like mwm (motif window manager) as a small, trim but usuable window manager. It beats the heck out of twm in my opinion and it's used for the gui in XEphem as well as almost all versions of Netscape for Unix/Linux/BSD. Here is a copy of mwm for MacOSX you can just dump into /usr/bin (or /usr/X11R6/bin if you have the PATH variable setup properly). Here is a .mwmrc for your home dir, it sets up default motif popup menu.

last modified Mon, Sept 1, 2008