10 December 2018

DSP Mobile: Filtering & Sorting Plans

We continue where we left off in the previous post - exploring the plan window. Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition allows you to filter and sort an object listing by several criteria. These functions are accessed on the Filters and Sort tabs of the Plan window, respectively.

[Note: Screenshots for this post were made on a 9.7" iPad tablet with the light Wedgewood app style.]

Filtering

Like the Desktop Edition, you can filter the listing of objects in a plan by several criteria. This does not remove the objects from the plan: it simply hides them in the list. The filtering options include magnitude range, size range, altitude and azimuth in the sky, constellation and object type. Note that the latter two options allow you to select multiple items so you can show objects in 3 constellations for example. The screenshot below shows a filter on altitude where an object must be 20 degrees above the horizon or more to be shown in the list.

Filters: Filtering by altitude

Sorting

Many options are included for sorting the list of objects. You can specify sorting on one or more data items, and you can specify ascending or descending sort direction for each. In the attached screenshot, we sort simply by the Best Time to view an object in ascending order.

Sort: Sort by ascending best time to view

Putting it all together

The Messier List plan is shown below with a typical use case for an observer. It shows objects above 20 degrees in the sky and sorted by ascending best time to view. This is accurate for the time and place of observation, so it effectively tells us which object to view next and the best order to view those that follow.

Objects: Object list sorted and filtered

03 December 2018

DSP Mobile: Viewing Plans

Once a plan is stored on your device, you can open it and view it. As with Deep-Sky Planner Desktop Edition, you can set a time and place for the plan, and filter and sort the listing by several criteria.

Setting Time and Place

Astronomical calculations require a time and a place to produce accurate results. The Localize tab of the Plan window provides these functions. You can select your location from the database and the date/ time for your observations as shown below. There are several options for calculating special times of day (sunset and so forth) for the location on the chosen date. You may also download images for objects in the plan from Digitized Sky Survey servers.

[Note: Screenshots for this post were taken on a 10" Android tablet with the Charcoal Gray app style.]

Localize: Location, Date/ Time, DSS Images

Viewing Object Data

Once you have the correct location and time set for your observations, you can view the Objects tab to view object information.

Objects: Object selection and detailed information
The Objects tab is where you find the detailed information for each object in a plan. Some of the data is static and stored in the plan file, but some is ephemeral - calculated for the time and place of your observation. This means that data like Altitude and Azimuth are calculated (and refreshed) as you work. Visibility modeling is also available so that you have an assessment of whether you can view the object given your equipment and conditions.

Filtering and Sorting the plan are important features that will be covered in our next post. Stay tuned!

26 November 2018

DSP Mobile: Transferring Data

Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition (DSPME) allows you to import plans created by Deep-Sky Planner 7 Desktop Edition via a cloud service or from the Deep-Sky Planner Community at knightware.biz. This option does not require the Desktop Edition. This post explores the first option: importing data from the cloud. The latter option will be described in a later post.

Importing from the cloud is intended for users who own both the Mobile and Desktop Editions of Deep-Sky Planner, and who use a cloud service to transfer data between them. Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive are currently supported.

A cloud service may be used to transfer more than just observing plans. Equipment lists and locations may also be transferred. Importing data is as simple as logging into the cloud service from DSPME and downloading file(s) to your device.  The screenshot below shows the feature as it appears on a 10" Android tablet.

File Import via Cloud
[Note that Deep-Sky Planner Desktop Edition will be enhanced in a future release to include support for storing plans, equipment lists and location lists to a cloud service from within the application. Until that enhancement is available, you can use a web browser or an app designed for the service to store data on the cloud service.]

Once a file has been downloaded and stored to your device, the app needs no further connection to the Internet for you to use the plan/equipment/location. They appear elsewhere in the application for you to use.

Plans Stored on the Device
 
Using Deep-Sky Planner Desktop Edition to create observing plans and the Mobile Edition at the telescope offers the best of both worlds - the most flexibility and control in creating your observing plans and the convenience of using your mobile device to view accurate data away from your desktop computer.

12 October 2018

Coming soon: Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition

Knightware is pleased to announce the upcoming release of Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition. It is planned for release in Q1 2019 for Android and iOS devices. It is currently targeted at 7 inch and larger tablets with support for phone-sized screens also coming.



The app has been under evaluation since 2014 and in development since late 2017. A few features remain to be developed for the initial release. Once all features have been added there will be a small, focused beta test program.

The app is designed to be used with or without Deep-Sky Planner Desktop Edition (for Windows). Mobile Edition users will have access to the Deep-Sky Planner Plan Library and equipment lists on the Knightware website. Users of the Desktop Edition will be able to create their own observing plans, equipment lists and location lists, and transfer them to the Mobile Edition via cloud storage services.

The screenshots below were acquired on a 9.7" iPad with the app running its blue-green Calypso skin and the red and black Nightvision skin.The app will ship with several additional skins.

Main app window - Calypso skin

Main app window - Nightvision skin

The observing plan window below shows deep-sky objects in the Messier list. The window includes catalog data, ephemeral (calculated) data and visibility modeling. Stars, doubles, variables, planets, asteroids and comets are also supported.

Plan window - Calypso skin
Plan window - Nightvision skin
Please stay tuned for more information about Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition in the weeks to come.

01 October 2018

Reviving the Blog

for Android & iOS


It's been a very busy year at Knightware. We have been hard at work on new products while maintaining existing ones. Our newest product, DarkZone, was released in April. It is a very simple app for iOS and Android that converts darkness readings among units (MPSAS, NELM, mcdpsm). It's quite handy if you find yourself needing to convert among these units.

Another mobile app is still being developed. We will make a pre-announcement about it on October 12 at the International Astronomy Show (IAS) at Stoneleigh Park, UK. We will have it available for demonstration there so please stop by our stand (#9) for a quick peek. Once we return to the office from the UK, details about the product will appear on this blog. Please stay tuned for these posts.

With that out of the way, I'd like to share some thoughts about astronomy trade shows and IAS in particular. Knighware has attended several astronomy shows over the past 10 years - most often appearing at NEAF in New York, but also appearing at PATS in California and AstroCATS in Ontario, Canada. Common themes at all of these shows have been meeting users of Knightware's software and learning how other astronomers go about viewing and imaging the night sky. While product sales are important at each show, networking with users, manufacturers and media people are all benefits of going on the road.

Attending IAS in the UK has been on the radar for quite a while. The show has had several years now to mature into an important event for the UK and Europe in general. Meeting some of the many Deep-Sky Planner (DSP) and SQM Reader Pro (SQMRP) users from Europe will be rewarding, as will seeing new equipment and meeting new people.

Along with the upcoming product pre-announcement, we will demonstrate both DSP and SQMRP at IAS. Both will be available from the Knightware Online Store, and DSP will be on offer to show attendees at a special discount price.

If you are a DSP or SQMRP user, please come by stand #9 at IAS and introduce yourself. If you are not able to attend, please watch our social media pages for pictures and posts from IAS.

https://www.facebook.com/deepskyplanner

03 July 2017

A New Tool for Describing Sky Darkness

Sky darkness is the subject of a lot of research worldwide. Not only are astronomers interested in measuring the darkness (or brightness) of the night time sky, but governments and institutions are too, especially as it effects humans, animals and plants. Surprising results are being published constantly, including an important one for astronomers last year.

A peer reviewed article* (Atlas) was published in 2016 that included a world map of artificial light. The researchers measured sky brightness for most of the world, although they skipped the very high latitudes in both hemispheres. Measurements were made from satellite- and earth-based equipment. The light values reported in the study were reported in micro- and milli-candelas per square meter. You can read about the study at http://cires.colorado.edu/Artificial-light ; the paper is published at http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/6/e1600377 

Candelas are a measure of luminance, not the usual unit of measure used by astronomers. We are more familiar with magnitudes per square arc minute (MPSAS) and naked-eye limiting magnitude (NELM). Converting values among these units helps us understand the relationship between the familiar units (MPSAS or NELM) and the Atlas unit (mcd/m2). Further, the color codes used in the Atlas provide a quick, consistent way of assessing sky darkness.

Introducing Zone Calculator



SQM Reader Pro 3 includes Atlas zone color along with SQM reading values in MPSAS and NELM (and Deep-Sky Planner 7 will too, soon). While developing the feature, a testing tool was developed which is now released to the public. The software is called Zone Calculator and it is available for free at http://knightware.biz/sqm/zonecalc.htm

Hopefully this little tool will help astronomers describe the darkness of their sky in a simple, more uniform way.






13 December 2016

Fun with Globulars

Given the time of year, one might wonder why a post about globular cluster observing comes now. There are 2 good reasons. First, it's a good time to plan observing projects that start in a few months. Secondly, I've done a bit of research lately on the Terzan globulars. There is confusion in the astronomical community about the identification of some of these objects. I believe I have this sorted now - results available in the Plan Library. But I digress, slightly...

Globular Cluster M 22 - Photo by Mark Lang
Observing globular clusters can be a very interesting pursuit. If you observe carefully, you'll notice that they all appear just a bit different. Not only in size and star colors, but notably in how many stars you can resolve, and the pattern of concentration. You can also observe globulars in neighboring galaxies.

Deep-Sky Planner provides a number of resources to help. You can search various catalogs in the database, and you can download several plans from the Plan Library that contain specialized lists of globular cluster. Current these include:
  • Astro League Globular Clusters
  • RASC Globular Clusters
  • Palomar Globular Clusters
  • Terzan Globular Clusters.
The AL and RASC lists are designed to educate the observer about observing globulars. They provide a nice sampling of objects and helpful information in their respective publications*. Either is a worthwhile project.

The latter two lists are designed for imagers and observers with large telescopes. The data for these lists are taken from the SIMBAD astronomical database and are supplemented with magnitude and color information gathered by W.E. Harris of McMasters University in Canada.

These are small, faint clusters so you will likely want to download and view DSS images of these objects. Although these clusters have been studied for many years, magnitude and color information is missing for many of the objects.

*AL Globular program material: https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/globular/globular1.html

*RASC Globular program material: Edgar, James S. Observer's Handbook 2017, Toronto: Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 2016, p312. Print.