Friday, December 21, 2018

KStars v3.0.0 is released!

After 4 months of development, we present the KStars v3.0.0 release as an early Christmas present for our users worldwide.

KStars v3.0.0 packs a lot of features and bugfixes as we strive to develop the most comprehensive planetarium platform for computers today.

XPlanet Solar System Viewer

Robert Lancaster developed the XPlanet Solar System Viewer which is a significant improvement of the KStars built-in viewer. It can display high resolution images of all the solar system bodies in addition to numerous moons.

By adjusting a few controls, the tool can deliver an immersive experience for the user.

You can zoom, pan, and rotate all objects seamlessly using an efficient algorithm.

Improved FITS Viewer GUI

Significant improvements to FITS loading & processing were made by employing various multi-threading techniques. For large images that requires similar computational tasks, KStars creates 16/32 threads that concurrently work on processing the image data. Most of the backend code now relies on asynchronous loading of data which in turn led to a smooth experience for the users.

Robert Lancaster took on the challenge of simplifying the FITS Viewer interface in order to make all information accessible as fast as possible to the user. The updated FITS Viewer now adds a non-intrusive drawer that the user can drag to expose several functionalities such as:
  • FITS Header
  • Histogram
  • Statistics
  • Recent Images

Scheduler Improvements

Eric Dejouhanet dedicated the last few months to resolving various issues with the Ekos Scheduler. The scheduler is now a lot more robust against many complex observation requirements & scenarios. It is also more tolerance to INDI disconnections and can resume from disconnection without going into panic mode.

This is a full rewrite and verification of all steps of evaluation of a list of scheduler jobs with the following existing constraints:
  • Dark sky, which schedules a job to the next astronomical dusk/dawn interval.
  • Minimal altitude, which schedules a job up to 24 hours away to the next date and time its target is high enough in the sky.
  • Moon separation, combined with altitude constraint, which allows a job to schedule if its target is far enough from the Moon.
  • Fixed startup date and time, which schedules a job at a specific date and time.
  • Culmination offset, which schedules a job to start up to 24 hours away to the next date and time its target is at culmination, adjusted by an offset.
  • Amount of repetitions, eventually infinite, which allows a job imaging procedure to repeat multiple times or indefinitely.
  • Fixed completion date and time, which terminates a job at a specific date and time.

The UI now displays target altitudes at the current simulation time, and at startup and completion times. It also displays the lead time or gap time between jobs to help with imaging time optimization. Warnings appear in some situations for the user to detect problematic situations, such as a job completing under the minimal altitude.

  • The rewrite starts by estimating the imaging duration of each job, and eventually reorders them based on option "Sort Jobs by Altitude and Priority".
  • The reordering algorithm sorts jobs by altitude, considering a setting target is higher than a rising target.
  • When the option is enabled, targets will be automatically sorted whenever jobs are evaluated, using the current simulation time for altitude calculations.
  • When the option is not enabled, a button is available to reorder jobs manually, using the first job startup time for altitude calculation.
  • This reordering helps to optimize imaging time when preparing a schedule with multiple targets.

Scripting & DBbus

KStars makes full use of DBus to enables scripting over many aspects of the application. All the Ekos modules DBus structure was migrated to a modern Property/Method/Signal framework. Furthermore, a new DBus interface added for the Field-Of-View (FOV) objects to enable complete control over them by 3rd party applications.

Lunar Eclipses

Valentin Boettcher added functionality to calculate and draw the earths shadow disk on the Moon from any distance.

There is a new eclipse tool in the astrocalc which can find lunar eclipses quite fast. It is overhauled and modularized over the original code.

The Eclipse Tool comes with an API that can be extended for other eclipse types.

Find Dialog

The venerable Find Dialog is now persistent so it remembers the past searches. Any time you find an object, it stores it in the history list where it can be easily retrieved later.

Capture Module

The capture module now incorporates a cooler On/Off button. Additionally, user can now clear Camera configuration.

The prefix target is automatically set when slewing an object as long as there are no active capture operation.

Misc. Works

Various tasks that not immediately visible on the surface, but it improves the code quality & stability over the long term.

  • Dedicated Binary Object channels when communicate with INDI driver to increase throughput and responsiveness of drivers.
  • Fixed performance regression in Star Profile viewer.
  • Guide mode resets calibration when it detects pier side changing.
  • Migrating code to new style Qt Signal/Slot connections.
  • J2000/JNow support in Mount Module.
  • Do not cast DSO coords seconds to int as we lose important precision. Use full resolution as double.
  • Fix issue with subframed calibration when auto-select star is not enabled. Now subframed star position is set properly in the internal guider before.
  • Support for compressed FITS files (.fits.gz)
  • Add live view support to focus module and rework existing one in capture to be icon based.
  • Show loaded coords in sexigesimal format and in high precision when possible.
  • Do not add any camera or ST4 devices to guide module if guider is external. Instead put guider type in guider dropdown and disable it.
  • Honor settling time in Polar Alignment Assistant tool.
  • Add warning when slewing to Sun. Adjust tracking rate if supported by the mount depending on the object type.
  • Add option to control DSLR image viewer. It can now be turned off.
  • Improve PHD2 support.

Thanks to

  • Yuri Chornoivan excellent maintenance for the documentation, spelling, and grammatical mistakes introduced by us. Thank you Yuri for putting up with our terrible spellings!
  • Csaba Kertesz fixed KStars Lite Android crash.

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