29 July 2011

DSP5.1 Update - First beta released to field testing

Comments have begun coming in from the first beta test version of DSP5.1 that was released to field testing by a small number of testers. We are looking at stability across the entire product, and usability & accuracy in the new plan document, especially in real-time plan processing (see below).

Results of the early beta testing process should give more clarity on a release date - please stay posted.

A plan running in real-time (automatically updating every minute)

19 July 2011

DSP5.1 Update - Object Designation Improvements

A catalog designation for a celestial object enumerates a single object, at least within the context of the catalog. The problem that arises is this: what is obviously 'NGC 100' to one person may be NGC100 or n100 to someone else. The IAU has a rule for this, but that doesn't change common use among the astronomy community. What to do?

Introducing the new object designation pattern matching engine. The engine is being added to Deep-Sky Planner to help change user-entered object designations into the format expected by Deep-Sky Planner. The engine is also being used to develop some sample plan documents that will be included in the 5.1 update. The engine is in final testing now.

To give an idea of how the engine will be presented, the screenshot below shows the new plan document editor which is used to add a celestial object to a plan. In the screenshot, the designation 'n100' is entered.

'Blank' Plan Editor

The second screenshot shows the result of a Lookup - what the engine found in the database and transferred to the editor form.

Plan Editor - NGC 100 found & retrieved from the database

11 July 2011

Deep-Sky Planner 5.1 Update - Accuracy of Positions

Existing documents in Deep-Sky Planner provide accurate reference data taken from catalogs, or computed for solar system objects - asteroids, comets, planets, sun & moon. The accuracy of these data are documented in the appendix of the online help file. Last summer I did some remote imaging using an observatory operated by the University of North Carolina in Chile. During this experience, I needed higher precision positional information to accommodate the imaging system, so I have brought this capability into Deep-Sky Planner via the new plan document.

The plan document still allows users to enter reference data (e.g., positional data referred to epoch J2000.0) and display it. It can also display (topocentric) apparent position data if preferred. Apparent positions are precessed to the epoch of date and include effects of nutation, aberration and parallax (topocentric) as applicable to the type of object. The higher precision calculations should be helpful to users who are using high precision, accurately aligned mounts (particularly those doing remote imaging).

A plan showing apparent positions for the selected date & time