04 November 2010

Version 5 update well underway

I had an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about planning visual and imaging observing sessions at an astronomy club meeting last spring. Interestingly, half of the panelists plan carefully for both long term (months or years) and short term (tonight). Personally, I fall into the former group. The other half of the panelists relied on last minute preparation or lists created by others.

The panel and the audience agreed that most observers prowl magazines, books and the Internet for visual and imaging targets. Creating and sharing observing lists is possible with Deep-Sky Planner, but there has been a more elegant solution on the drawing board for quite some time. In fact, the prototyping of the solution was done 3 years ago - summer of 2007. Requirements have been gathered and refined in the interim through various means.

I read a lot of astronomy related material from books, magazines, professional journals and online articles. I also get a lot of ideas from users. (Did you notice I was taking notes while we talked at NEAF/PATS/star parties?) I am primarily a deep-sky observer, but I experimented with remote imaging over the summer. That experience moved some planning requirements from 'maybe' to 'must have'.

These new planning features (requirements) are beginning to take shape now in the form of coding. Two compiler upgrades this year have slowed coding, but it is progressing now at full speed. From an engineering perspective, the new features will benefit from new instrumentation capabilities in the newest compiler. That should translate into better quality and performance once the features reach users. From a user standpoint, the new features will come as a free update to version 5.

Please stay tuned for more information as work progresses. More details will become available as version 5.1 enters beta testing in Q1 2011.

PS - If you use Cartes du Ciel 3.2, there is a minor bug in the interface that Deep-Sky Planner 5 uses. The bug is already fixed in the development version of Cartes du Ciel, but a hotfix is available for Deep-Sky Planner 5 in case you prefer to stick with the officially released CdC v3.2. Deep-Sky Planner users can log in to the Community page and download the hotfix.