Archive for August, 2009

A long update – SoC wrap up!

So, things have moved a lot since I last posted. I guess its really time I updated my blog about the cool features which KStars has now 🙂

For over a month now, I had been working with implementing the “Execute Session” feature and the OAL compliant XML logs. A quick intro to the new stuff:

1. Add Observer:

This is the UI for adding an Observer into KStars, so that when you are going somewhere observing, and you need your name on the logs, you can simply add your name here and use it in the logs.

2. Define Equipment:

This is the place where you can add a list of your Telescopes, Eyepieces, Barlow/Shapley lenses and the filters. For the user’s convenience, we generate a meaningful name string that can be used to identify the object and it has an unique identifier as its id field (which again is auto generated). Here, you can add, delete or edit the list of equipments that you possess. All these will be useful and can be used for the OAL logs. Here’s how the Define Equipment window looks :


3. The OAL compliant XML logs:

The first question I can think of is why the complicated OAL logs? The answer is as follows:

Lets say, a professional/(advanced) amateur astronomer goes for an observation session and plans to maintain a log of what he saw, the things he would need are:

A. Equipment details:
+ Eyepiece – make, focal length, apparent FOV
+ Telescope – make, focal length, aperture, optical-type (i.e. Newt
/ Cass / Apo / Achromat), mounting-type (i.e. Eq / Dob / Alt-Az)
+ Filters – make, size, type
+ Camera – make, type

B. Location details:
+ Observing site name
+ Lat + Lon + TZ
+ Some generic sky quality description

C. Observing session details:
+ Observing Site
+ List of Equipment
+ That night’s weather conditions explained
+ Seeing / Transparency
+ List of Target objects
+ List of associated logs

D. Logs of his observations:
+ The object details
+ Comments on the object

So, basically one could make his/her observations “scientific” enough, and there are shareable across the world and across different software as well!

Okay, so we’ve got the OAL compliant logs, but how does a user easily and comfortably write the logs?
The answer to that is the Execute UI, here’s what it does:

As it opens, you could add the details of the observation session, the date, time, weather conditions, the site of observations, etc.
A quick preview:


Now, time for the real buisness, you start observing, so you select the “Step 2: Observations” link. This takes the objects from your Session List in the Observation planner, sorts the objects by their scheduled observation times, centers the skymap onto the first object and keeps things ready for you to log the observation once you have observed the object. You can even slew your telescope to the current object directly. So, this is what it looks like:


After this, you goto the next page and enter the equipment details used for the current observation, which kstars remembers until you change them, this is what this looks like:


Then you move on to the next target, so click on the next target and it moves to the next target, centers it on the skymap and you can repeat the procedure comfortably. The best thing about this is that, when you are moving to the next target here, the selection changes in the Observation Planner as well, so you can see the image, altitude vs time and stuff without any effort 🙂

But what if you forgot to include an object in the session plan? Just click on the “add new object to list” and you can easily add objects into the logs. Even better, it automatically adds the object to your session plan as well. It is this simple:


And after you’re done observing all the objects, you can refine the session details if you’d like to, say for adding a few extra comments on the weather and finally click on End Session. This would open a file dialog where you can save tge logs to a place of your choice.

Now, apart from these, the Observation planner has a new interesting feature as well, from the wishlist, you can select objects and add a list of objects that are visible tonight to the session plan. A really quick way of planning a session if you’re in a big hurry 🙂

Now, with all these, I guess my SoC has finally come to an end. I hope people would find these useful and enjoy KStars!
Until my next post, signing off 🙂