Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Supernovae Data Source in KStars!

The initial support for Supernovae in KStars was added back in 2011, but it relied on parsing an HTML page using a Python script to extract the necessary information on the latest discovered supernovae. It was obviously a very crude and hackish way to get the data, and I longed to rely on a better source for our data.

The Harvard page we were relying on for supernovae updates suddenly stopped posting any further updates, its last update was made in 2015. Thankfully, we discovered a new gold trove of information: The Open Supernovae Catalog project!

Every small orange dot is a supernova!

Before this project was created, the state of open and accessible data for supernovae was severely lacking in the astronomical community. Thanks to the Open Supernova Catalog, KStars is now again properly displaying old and newly discovered supernovae across the cosmos! The data is available by a JSON file that includes the supernova metadata required in KStars. It can be updated by the user from the data menu.

I'd like to especially thank Dr. James Guillochon, an an ITC Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, for his excellent support to make Supernovae in KStars possible!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

KStars 2.7.2 for Windows is released

Less than a month from the release 2.7.0, KStars v2.7.2 for Windows 64bit is now available for download on KStars website! Get it now and give it a go.

The new release features many minor improvements and bug fixes including very fast startup time (about 300% faster) in addition to more streamlined Ekos GUI for capture and schedule modules. Images captured with Ekos on Windows would now conform to legal filenames in Windows when using ISO 8061 time stamped files.

Unfortunately, a few problems remain in this release most importantly is that KStars does not gracefully closes, it always remains in the background and must be terminated explicitly by the Windows task manager. This bug was supposed to be fixed by Qt 5.8 but alas it is still affecting Qt 5.8 in emerge. Once fixed by Qt/KDE, we shall make another release addressing this issue. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Multiple notifications across multiple monitors in KDE Plasma 5?

I have 3 monitors, and on each monitor, I have a Plasma panel at the bottom. When any notification pops up, I get 3 notifications on each monitor. I have a full fledged panel on each monitor with everything including task bar and system tray.

As you can imagine, this can get annoying pretty fast. Thanks to IRC and Bhushan Shah who proposed this solution, simply remove the system tray from the panels on the secondary monitors, and just keep the system tray on the primary monitor. This way, you will only get one-notification popup on each monitor instead of multiple ones!

To achieve this, first click on the hamburger icon in the panel to edit the panel. Then hover the mount over the system tray area where you get a popup like below that enables you to remove the system tray plasmoid.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

KStars Lite 1.0.0 is released on Google Play!

A couple of days after the release of KStars 2.7, the KStars team is happy to announce the availability of KStars Lite for Android, now available on the Google Play Store.

KStars Lite is our successful Google Summer of Code project for 2016. It was developed by our star student and active developer Artem Fedoskin who managed within a few months to create a QML/QtQuick lite version of desktop KStars with many features including:

Full Skymap

Sky Map
A beautiful sky map that takes you into deep space to see stars, planets, galaxies, and much more:

  1. All Solar System Objects
  2. Constellation Art
  3. Constellation Boundary Lines, Lines, Names
  4. Equatorial Coordinate System
  5. Horizontal Coordinate System
  6. Deep Sky Objects
  7. Stars and Deep Stars
  8. Ecliptic, Equator and Horizon
  9. Milky Way
  10. Satellites
  11. Supernovae
  12. Labels

GPS-Based Location

While you can select your location from the thousands of cities shipped with KStars Lite, you can also simply ask it to automatically fill that information and it would fetch your location within a few seconds!

This feature is very handy when you're on the field and want to see an accurate representation of the night sky form your current location.

KStars Lite fetches not only longitude and latitude information, but also geographic information about your current location (city, state, country) via Google services.

Color Schemes

Similar to the desktop KStars version, KStars Lite support setting of several color schemes.

Most notable is the Night Vision scheme that enable your eyes to adjust to the darkness while still being able to utilize the sky map fully without any blazing glares that could ruin your night vision.

Projection Systems

Select from various projection systems. A projection system is used to map 3D space into your 2D screen, and there are many ways to do it including:

  1. Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection.
  2. Azimuthal equidistant projection.
  3. Orthographic projection.
  4. Equirectangular projection.
  5. Stereographic projection.
  6. Gnomonic projection.

Find Any Object

KStars Lite provides you with a convenient search functionality to search within KStars catalogs that includes thousands of stars, galaxies, nebulae, and solar system objects. When an object is found, you can go to the object on the sky map or view detailed information about it.

But what if the object is not found within KStars database? Do not worry! KStars include functionality to search numerous online catalogs for millions of objects. Once found, the KStars database downloads the new object data, and includes the new object just like a regular KStars object where you can view its information, center it...etc

Detailed Object Info

Explore detailed object information provided by KStars Lite. This includes images, position and time information, and links to pursue further information on the object.

Want to know when the project will pass overhead? Check the position tab. Want to see more images of the object? Check the links tab. Have some notes to write about the object? Save them in the logs tab.

The general tab includes the most prominent information about an object such as its magnitude, its distance from earth, and its angular size in the sky.

Full INDI Client Support

Control your Telescope, CCD, DSLR, and even your complete observatory within KStars Lite. With its first class INDI client support, you can connect to an INDI server running your equipment, and start controlling them immediately.

You can track your telescope motion on the sky map, and even select any object and ask the telescope to track it. Have a camera attached to your telescope? Simply capture an image and get a live preview on KStars Lite!

No need to fiddle with cables and wires anymore, use KStars Lite to wirelessly control your astronomy equipment at any time and from any where.

What's next?

Please bear in mind this is our first KStars Lite release for Android, and while we worked hard to fix some of the quirks in the development version, there is still room for improvements including improving its stability and performance:

  1. Reduce startup time: Currently it takes about ~35 seconds for KStars Lite to startup (on my Samsung S5) which is a very long time compared to what users typically expect on Android. We will be working hard to reduce this startup time to an acceptable range.
  2. Adjust sky map to follow gyroscopic sensors: We eventually expect users to point their phone/table to any location on the sky, the KStars Lite would then adjust the sky map to show this particular region of the sky. There were several issues with using Qt Sensors that prevented this feature from making it into the initial release, but we are working on it.
  3. Ekos support: We might include some of the modules of Ekos in the Lite release.