Viewing the Night Sky with Linux, Part II: Visit the Planets With XEphem
Quirky and PowerfulPart I of this series covered a simple Linux planetarium program, KStars.
But there are some questions KStars isn't very good at answering, like the question that began Part I: "What the heck are those really bright 'stars' in the sunset sky?" For viewing closeups of planets, monitoring the motion of the planets, getting precise predictions of events like eclipses, and other such information, you'll do better with a more powerful tool: XEphem.
You'll find XEphem at http://clearskyinstitute.com/xephem. Extract it and cd:
tar xzvf ~/Tarballs/xephem-3.7.3.tar.gz cd xephem-3.7.3
XEphem builds a bit differently from the usual configure, make, make install sequence. See the file named INSTALL for instructions. You'll need Motif installed, like the libmotif3 package on Ubuntu. You'll probably also need some X development headers: if you get compile errors, try adding the packages xorg-dev and x11proto-print-dev, or your distribution's equivalent.
Once it's compiled, the INSTALL file also has instructions on how to
install it on your system, depending on whether you want to install it
as root for anyone who might use your system, or just for yourself.