30 November 2009

Deep-Sky Planner 5 Preview: Logging Features

The new observer's log has occupied a large portion of research and development time for Deep-Sky Planner 5 (DSP5.) It has been updated to contain many more data items and expanded reporting features. New items have been identified through user requests and through months of research into observation data. Although many items can be recorded with an observation, all are not required so the user can determine which items to log. Some fairly advanced uses of these data will appear in DSP5. Convenience and flexibility in reporting have also been a focal point for the log.

For example, imagers have the ability to view equipment and exposure data taken directly from their image files and record them in the log. Another new capability allows users to access online resources directly from the log. Perhaps the most advanced new feature is the ability to record sky and weather conditions in extreme detail with observations. Users can access web resources and local ones to access these conditions.

The following screen shots show some of the new features in the Observation Browser.

DSP5 introduces support for all models of the Sky Quality Meter. Readings can be entered into an observation manually or automatically if the user has any of the models that support communications. This includes models with Ethernet, USB or 9-pin serial connections.

The expanse of data that can be recorded in an observation makes this portion of the observer's log a revolutionary improvement in astronomical logging software.

Handling log data is much more flexible and convenient. Users have complete control over report content and format through the new style sheet technology in DSP5. Furthermore, observations may be imported and exported in both a native Deep-Sky Planner format and the new OpenAstronomyLog format. OpenAstronomyLog is an international initiative by astronomical software developers to make observing logs portable between software applications. Knightware has embraced the standard and has contributed to its development.

The screen shot below shows an observation file exported in native DSP5 format and displayed using a style sheet that ships with DSP5. You can create your own style sheets and use them to display observations from DSP5.

The screen shot below shows the same observations exported in OpenAstronomyLog 2.0 format and displayed by Internet Explorer.

In addition to the reporting capability shown above, users can still search the log and produce reports in 2 predefined styles. These reports have styling capabilities, and they can be exported in multiple formats - HTML, formatted text or MS Excel.

22 November 2009

Deep-Sky Planner 5 Preview: New & Updated Catalogs

Deep-Sky Planner 5 features an updated and expanded database of deep-sky and stellar objects. Altogether, the database now contains over one million objects. There is also a wealth of cross reference information. There are over 62,000 cross reference names and over 175,000 other names. A cross reference name is a designation for an object in a catalog contained within the database. For example Messier 1 is also known as NGC 1952, Ced 53, LBN 833, Crab Nebula and Taurus A. The NGC, Ced and LBN catalogs are contained within the database so these designations are considered cross references. 'Crab nebula' and 'Taurus A' are considered common names because they are not designations from a catalog within the database.

Multi-Catalog Searching

Catalog data reporting has been enhanced to permit the searching of multiple catalogs or single catalogs. Single catalog searching still reports data in a catalog-specific way so that the most pertinent details from the catalog are at your disposal. Multiple catalog searching allows you to produce a single report of objects from multiple catalogs, but the report contains data items common to each selected catalog.

Deep-Sky Catalogs

The database contains data for a wide variety of objects, including quasars, supernova remnants, bright and dark nebulae, star clusters and galaxy clusters. It also contains a comprehensive collection of planetary nebulae and galaxies to magnitude 18. The majority of galaxy data is taken from the HyperLeda collection, and therefore contains the latest data available. Catalogs have been updated where possible and the Lynds Bright and Dark Nebulae catalogs have been added by request. There are currently over 820,000 deep-sky objects in the database.

Stellar Catalogs

Extensive updates and additions have been made among stellar object data. Catalogs have been updated where possible and the CCDM and G2V stars from the Hipparcos catalog have been added by request. There are now over 284,000 stellar objects in the database.
Double Stars
Double star observers will appreciate the addition of the CCDM catalog and an updated version of WDS (2009 version.) Together these catalogs place over 154,040 double star systems at your disposal. In addition to the official nomenclature, these stars are also identified by Discoverer names, Bayer/Flamsteed numbers and proper names as applicable - a total of over 165,000 names. The screen shot above shows a search of both double star catalogs by Bayer designation.
Variable Stars (and suspects)
Variable star observers will enjoy the updated GCVS and NSV data, both taken from the March 2009 version of this dataset. Over 66,000 variable stars are now at your disposal.
Imagers will appreciate the convenience of having a searchable set of G2V stars taken from the Hipparcos catalog to help with color-balancing images. The G2V dataset can be searched like any other, including for stars near an equatorial position in the sky determined by current telescope pointing position or by looking up another object's position in the database.

18 November 2009

Announcing Deep-Sky Planner 5 Preview

The time has finally arrived to announce the coming release of Deep-Sky Planner 5. The product is in late beta testing and should be ready to ship in January, 2010.

Deep-Sky Planner 5 has been under development for several years. It is the result of many discussions with visual and imaging observers, extensive research into what observers should record in a log, and it incorporates a number of new technologies. There is much more catalog data (both updated and new), many new features and some nice conveniences. Some features are likely the first of their kind in planning and logging software.

While there are new features and data, you can be assured that the product is still governed by some basic principles - software should be:
  1. easy to use
  2. accurate
  3. in this case, compliant with Windows guidelines
The latter is important not only from a usability standpoint, but also as regards security - a topic that is becoming increasingly important for products that provide online services, and those that operate properly with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Articles outlining the new product will appear in this blog over the coming weeks while Deep-Sky Planner 5 undergoes final testing. These articles should help you get a better understanding of what's coming and when. Be sure to visit the preview page at knightware.biz for more information, and to get a glimpse of the product in action.