Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hundreds of visual surveys in KStars!

With the KStars "Hipster" 2.8.1 release, I introduced Hierarchical Progressive Survey (HiPS) in KStars with three sample catalogs in the optical, infrared, and gamma regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Now users can browse from hundreds of online HiPS surveys and can enable them for overlay in KStars. Everything from radio, infrared, optical up to gamma rays is available along with a short description on each survey of interest.

Since these surveys literally take hundreds of gigabytes of storage space, they are downloaded on-demand and stored in a local cache. The disk cache is set by default to consume 1 GB while the RAM cache is set to 300 MB. These settings are now configurable from the HiPS Settings to provide users the flexibility to balance system resources with catalog usage.

By default, overlays utilize nearest neighbor algorithm to map 2D images unto the celestial sphere. Drawing of HiPS overlays can be further improved by enabling Bilinear Interpolation at the expense of increased CPU usage.

These selections shall be available in the next KStars 2.8.2 release coming up soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

KStars 2.8.1 "Hipster" Release is out!

It finally landed! KStars 2.8.1 aka Hipster release is out for Windows & MacOS!

The highlight for this release is experimental support for HiPS: Hierarchical Progressive Surveys. HiPS provides multi-resolution progressive surveys to be overlayed directly in client applications, such as KStars. It provides an immersive experience as you can explore the night sky dynamically.

With over 200+ surveys across the whole electromagnetic spectrum from radio, infrared, visual, to even gamma rays, the user can pan and zoom progressively deeper into the data visually.

HiPS Support in KStars

HiPS support in KStars has been made possible with collaboration with the excellent open source planetarium software SkyTechX. This truely demonstrates the power of open source to accelerate development and access to more users.

Another feature, also imported from SkyTechX, is the Polaris Hour Angle, which is useful for users looking to polar align their mount.

Polar Hour Angle

GSoC 2017 student Csaba Kert├ęsz continued to merge many code improvements. Moreover, many bugs fixes landed in this release. The following are some of the notable fixes and improvements:
  • BUGS:382721 Just use less than and greater than keys for time.
  • BUGS:357671 Patch by Robert Barlow to support custom catalogs in WUT.
  • Improved comet and asteroid position accuracy.
  • Ekos shall fallback to user defined scopes if INDI driver does not provide scope metadata.
  • Fixed command line parsing.
  • Fixed many PHD2 external guider issues.
  • Fixed selection of external guiders in Ekos Equipment Profile.
  • Fixed rotator device infinite loop.
  • Fixed scheduler shutdown behavior.
  • Fixed Ekos Mosaic Position Angle.
  • Fixed issue with resetting Polar Alignment Assistant Tool rotation state.
  • Fixed issue with Ekos Focus star selection timeout behavior.
  • Ekos always switches to CLIENT mode when taking previews.
  • Handle proper removal of devices in case of Multiple-Devices-Per-Driver drivers
  • Display INDI universal messages for proper error reporting.
  • Better logging with QLoggingCategory.

Ekos Mosaic Tool with HiPS

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

KStars 2.8.0 is released for Windows, MacOS, and Linux

Here comes another KStars release: v2.8.0 For Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

This is a minor bugfix release to increase stability of KStars on all supported platforms. Nevertheless, there were few significant updates:

  • Default NGC/IC catalog is now replaced by OpenNGC project. Christian Dersch compiled this catalog from OpenNGC. KStars now include more objects with accurate positions!

  • Lots of C++11/C++14 code migration work by GSoC 2017 student Csaba Kert├ęsz. This also included memory management clean-up, usage of smart pointers, valgrind suppression file and other fixes.

  • Adding support to selection of telescopes from Ekos equipment profile directly. This facilitates having different profiles when utilizing different telescopes on the same mount.
  • Michael Fulbright, KStars & INDI latest developer,  added the ability to have a scheduled refocus every N minutes during a capture sequence. Michael also added dither size in pixels and dither timeout to UI.
Many small bugs were fixed, thanks to our users who are making use of KDE Bug Tracking facilities effectively.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

KStars 2.7.9 Released for Linux, Mac, Windows, and Android!

A new release of KStars is out! v2.7.9 is now available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. At the same time, we released an update to KStars Lite for Android.

This is mostly a bugfix release where we concentrated on fixing bugs as reported by our users. But that didn't stop us from creating new tools that were long requested by the community, including the Mount Control tool that facilitates motion and GOTO commands with a simple interface.

On the other hand, KStars GSoC 2017 project started with lots under the hood work taking place. Csaba went full throttle with migrating the C++ code to modern C++14 standards while updating the build process to be stricter, more secure, and efficient. The whole code base was formatted and countless warnings resolved. Furthermore, several enhancements were made to decrease memory usage and increase performance of tools such as Observation Planner.

For KStars Lite on Android, it now supports Automatic Mode where you can identify stars, planets, and constellations simply by pointing the phone toward the sky and looking at the live Sky Map within the App. Significant performance gains were made in FITS files that support WCS data. Since processing WCS is very CPU intensive, loading WCS data is now performed on demand. This is especially important for embedded devices where resources are limited.

Robert Lancaster implemented automatic download of index files directly from the GUI. No longer the user have to go and hunt for index files, calculate FOVs for different equipment...etc. With the updated system, all the required index files are highlighted automatically by Ekos, and all you have to do is to click and download them!

Special thanks to all those who made this release possible. Outstanding work from KDE's Craft team, led by Hannah Von Reth, for making this great tool that enables KStars to reach users across all major platforms.

New Field Rotator Conrol

Monday, May 8, 2017

KStars 2.7.7 Released for Linux, Mac, and Windows!

The New What's Interesting Tool
I'm glad to announce the release of KStars 2.7.7 for Linux, Mac, and Windows!

In this release, Robert Lancaster dedicated a lot of time to improving KStars What's Interesting Tool (WIT). It is now significantly improved and offers a rich educational experience to explore the heavens! Users can now explore many naked eye and deep sky objects, in addition to addon catalogs offered by KStars such as the Sharpless Catalog.

Users wishing to have more fine control on what objects to observe and/or image should be using the Observation Planner that enable filtering of objects with custom constraints and limits. For casual users looking to find out what's interesting tonight, then this tool is the optimal choice.

Whether you're simply viewing the sky unaided with your eye or using binoculars/telescopes, find out which objects are available and how to locate them in the night sky.

The WIT fetches images and information on the objects and interest and can even fetch information from online sources like Wikipedia.

Mac Canon users will be glad to know the new release now enables them to fully control their DSLRs under OSX. Furthermore, the Mac release includes support for ZWO ASI cameras. We hope to add support for QHY for Mac in the next release.

Access to thousands of images like this

While KStars includes downloadable addons for images that appears in the detail dialog, John Sadler did a fantastic job of compiling images for over 18,000 NGC/IC objects!! These images are now available as downlodable addons, and now you can enjoy images of thousands of objects right within KStars. A small update to the Observation Planner enabled support for viewing images in there as well to help you plan what to observe and image ahead.

A few fixes were made to the Ekos Guide module to detect timeout in image captures and to take appropriate actions before giving up. Also, dithering failure does not necessary lead to autoguiding process failure. This behavior is now controlled by the user. By default, the autoguide process shall proceed even if dithering fails for whatever reason.

Finally, I added SkySafari support to INDI and now SkySafari users can enjoy using their app & KStars simultaneously to control their equipment without resorting to exotic hacks.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

KStars 2.7.6 for Windows & OSX released

I am glad to announce the release of KStars 2.7.6 release for Windows & OSX. Linux users using the official PPA can install the latest release as well.

In this release, we introduce the Ekos Mount Modelling tool developed by Robert Lancaster. It's currently in Beta now and we would appreciate any feedback. The tool enables you to build a comprehensive mount model if supported by your mount. Any mount that improves its internal pointing model after a SYNC command is applicable. Furthermore, INDI mounts that supports INDI Alignment Subsystem (EQMod, Nexstarevo, Synscan..etc) are also applicable.

Along with the advanced mount modelling tool comes the new Solution Results plot in the Align Module. It displays the quality of your GOTO after each solve and it can help you to identify if there are issues with your mount or the quality of the image..etc.

You can zoom, pan, and drag to explore the plot in details. Annotation for the quality of each GOTO is available on mouse over.

Ekos Polar Alignment Assistant tool also received a few bug fixes from the community feedback. Most users were able to achieve impressive results using the this easy to use Polar Alignment tool.

While Ekos is designed for ease of use, it can be intimidating for new users unfamiliar with the architecture of Ekos/INDI on several operation systems. Therefore, a new Ekos Profile Wizard is now available to guide the users to setting up their equipment for the first time in Ekos across several operating systems and connection topologies.

With INDI v1.4.1+, figuring out which port to use for your mount & focuser is now trivial across Linux & OSX. INDI automatically scans ports on your system and can even automatically connect to all potential available ports as well until a successful connection is established.

Last, but not least, KStars' NEO (Near-Earth-Object) data query from NASA's JPL is now properly working again thanks to our newest KStars developer Valentin Boettcher. Valentin (aka Hiro) is only 18 years old but is quite brilliant and experienced with KDE/Qt development environment. Welcome abroad!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How to get 100 million stars in KStars

USNO NOMAD star catalog which contains ~100 million stars has been available in KStars for many years, but it appears many KStars users do not know how to get the catalog up and running.

The primary problem is its sheer size (1.4 GB) which tends to fail when being downloaded via KStars Download New Data tool. So here is a quick guide on how to obtain this catalog.

USNO NOMAD requires Tycho-2 catalog to be installed first. It is a relatively smaller download at only 32MB and can be safely installed using the Download New Data tool. Using the keyboard, click Ctrl + N to bring up the dialog, or go to Data → Download.

Navigate to Tycho-2 and click Install.

Wait until Tycho-2 is downloaded and installed. Now download the USNO NOMAD Catalog. Please either use a download manager to download the file, or use wget from the console. To use wget, open a console and type:


Alternatively, you might want to checkout the mirror list first to download the files from a mirror close to you. After downloading the file, extract it and copy USNO-NOMAD-1e8.dat to ~/.local/share/kstars

If you are using console:

tar -xzf USNO-NOMAD-1e8-1.0.tar.gz
cp USNO-NOMAD-1e8.dat ~/.local/share/kstars

Now restart KStars, and go to Settings → Configure KStars. You'll see the Star Catalogs density slider, move it up and click Apply. You can control how many stars KStars draw on the screen, the more stars, the more resources it would take to render them, so adjust the slider carefully.

And if all goes well, you should have millions of stars on in your KStars Sky Map, enjoy!