Building XEphem on Red Hat


This post has been updated to reflect my experience with re-installing the version 3.7.3 rpm in late 2009.

XEphem is a full-featured astronomical epehemeris program for Linux and Linux-like systems (e.g. FreeBSD and it’s non-free cousin, Mac OSX).

There is a prebuilt rpm of version 3.7.3 for Red Hat systems available from Craig Kulsea’s homepage at the University of Arizona.

The latest stable version is 3.7.4 (late 2008), for which source is available from the Clear Sky Institute.

For an rpm install all you need, besides some other prerequisite packages, is an .xephemrc file in the running user’s home directory that contains the line:

XEphem.PrivateDir: ~/.xephem

and that ~/.xephem subdirectory with a file called XEphem in it. The XEphem file would have the following parameters defined in it, at a minimum:

XEphem.ShareDir:           /usr/lib/xephem
XEphem.Elevation:          111.3 m
XEphem.Lat:                35:46:38
XEphem.Long:               78:38:21
XEphem.Sitename:           Raleigh, North Carolina
XEphem.TZName:             America/New-York
XEphem.TZone               EDT

To build from source, follow the instructions in the INSTALL file that comes with the distribution. I haven’t tried building 3.7.4 yet, but if my experience with 3.7.3 is any guide expect it to be an afternoon project.

Below are the contents of my own xephem.desktop file for installation under /usr/share/applications. Note that the 3.7.3 rpm copies the XEphem.png icon image file to /usr/share/pixmaps automatically but the supplied menu (.desktop) files don’t appear to work with RHEL/CentOS 5 and later.

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Astronomical Ephemeris