SkyPlanner is a new web software I wrote to help star gazers (including myself) planning their own observation nights.
I already briefly introduced it, and in this page I’ll give a full explanation about its features.
After logging in with your username and password (registration is quick, since email address is not mandatory), the first thing you should do is setting up your observation instruments.
On the “*My *Telescopes” page you can add your telescopes data.
Clicking “My Sessions” you’ll find a list of your past and future star gazing sessions , with an “Add New” form . As you can see nights with low moonlight pollution are automatically suggested.
You can now set up your star gazing observation position. This way you’ll have suggestions related to the selected place and time, sun and moon rise/set times, moon phase and other useful information. There is also a Google Maps link, so you can open it in a new full screen window and plan your trip.
The choose place widget also includes Google Maps search capabilities, to easly search places by name.
This is the information panel, related to the selected place and date.
On each session you can find the collapsible panel “Add Observable Object“. You can expand it by clicking, and you’ll see three tabs: “Best visible objects“, “Add by catalogue number” and “Search by name“.
The first tab suggests you many interesting objects, ordered by increasing observation difficulty and filtered by visibility conditions.
Objects too faint for your telescope, or not visible during the selected night will be then automatically excluded.
For each objects you’ll see its common names and catalogues, the object type, and catalogue informations by clicking the “More” button if present.
The “Add” button will add the object to the session objects “playlist”. Objects already added will be highlighted in green.
You can also filter the suggestions list by object type: the default filter only filters out stars and asterisms.
In this screenshot you can see the suggested objects list filtering only galaxies:
Here, filtering only red stars:
And here, filtering only asterisms:
The “Add by catalogue number“, tab allows searching objects by catalogue and number on SkyPlanner database.
You just need to select the right catalogue and type the object number to easly find what you’re looking for.
Our catalogue database includes Messier, NGC/IC, Abell, Arp, MCG, Caldwell and UGC.
You can also run free search on object names on the “Search by name” tab. You can easly search by full catalogue name, for instance NGC 1288, or by common name, such as Antennae or *Mice. A star (\) can be used as jolly character.
A key feature of SkyPlanner, together with the powerful objects search and suggestion engine, is the “session playlist” of observable objects.
Here we can see every object name/catalogue, and their most important features. We can see additional catalogue information, and we can also add our own notes, before and after observation.
The objects list is already sorted by time of maximum altitude: this way we have true “playlist” ordered by observation time.
Clicking each object name you’ll have a popup menu with additional information, search engines like Google, SIMBAD and NED, object image preview through DSS and other useful links
We also offer a “Feedback” menu entry to report us problems or suggestion about the selected object.
Clicking the “Digitalized Sky Survey Image” link from the previous menu you will see the object image downloaded from the Space Telescope Science Institute servers.
There are many image options. The image size will be automatically selected depending on the object angular size.
The “Invert” button (currently working only on Webkit browsers, such as Google Chrome and Safari) gives you a negative image, helping sometimes seeing more details, and allowing an eco-friendly print.
DSS images download will sometimes be quite slow, depending on the object size and the STSCI servers.
Back to the session screen, the “Printable Version” button allows you to create a printer friendly version of the current objects playlist.
It is possible to export the playlist both in imageless HTML and in a downloadable PDF version.
You can also add blank spaces between each object for writing your personal notes while observing, and in the PDF version, also customize font size.
Since SkyPlanner is a very young software in early test phase I really reccomend everyone to try it, and to send feedback and error reporting using both the Feedback menu, or using this blog.
Happy star gazing!