Tuesday, June 30, 2015

KStars GSoC 2015 Project

This year marks my first year as a Google Summer of Code (GSoC) mentor, and it has been an exciting experience thus far. I have been a KStars developer for the last 12 years and it is amazing what KStars has accomplished in all those years.

Since KStars caters to both casual and experienced astronomy enthusiasts, the KStars's 2015 GSoC projects reflects this direction. For the casual educational fun side, I proposed the inclusion of constellation art work to be superimposed on the sky map. KStars currently draws constellation lines, names, and boundaries, but constellation art is missing. We required that the data structure must support multiple sky cultures (e.g. western, Chinese..etc) and the artwork itself must be available under a permissible license. New constellation artwork should be available for download using the KNewStuff framework. 

Here is a very early look at the constellation art in KStars. The student still needs to work on scaling, rotation, among other things, but it looks promising! But the end of the project, all 88 western constellations can be viewed within KStars in addition to another cultural group.

For the more advanced users who utilize KStars to perform astrophotography, I proposed a simple Ekos Scheduler tool.

Ekos is an advanced astrophotography tool for Linux. It utilizes INDI for device control. With Ekos, the user can use the telescope, CCD, and other equipment to perform Astrophotography tasks. However, the user has to be present to configure the options and to command the actions to perform all the astrophotography related tasks, and hence a scheduler is required to automate observations to be constrained within certain limitations such as required minimum angular separation from the moon, whether conditions...etc. Furthermore, the observations should be triggered when certain conditions are met such as observation time, object's altitude...etc.

The Ekos scheduler is still at very early stages but the workhorse algorithm responsible for dispatching observations jobs is in the works and should be completed soon. Even though the scheduler is currently an Ekos module, it operates by utilizing Ekos DBus interface completely. 

Fortunately for KStars, both projects were accepted in GSoC 2015 and I am glad to be working with two very talented and highly motivated students:
The students have made good progress on the objectives of the project and been great when it comes to communications. Being introduced to a new framework and a new paradigm of thinking is a shock to new comers who need time to adjust and get the wheel rolling.

I certainly hope the projects stay on track and get completed on time!