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New deep sky planner: Eye&Telescope 3.0

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#1 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 06:24 AM

I would like to introduce a deep sky planning, charting and logging application I've been working on for several years. It is called Eye&Telescope. The first version was released in 2002, the second came in 2005 and now the third is ready for shipping in Europe.

E&T 3.0 has a German AND English user interface and documentation. Therefore it is now an offer to all observers who read this post. The english documentation was reviewed by native speakers, so no one will have to suffer from my mistakes or style.

What's so interesting and useful with E&T?

First of all, it deals with the "can I see XY with my scope" question - what is the most important question for everyone who assembles an observation plan. E&T uses a perceptibility estimation method that takes the object's data, the scope's data and the faintest star (sky quality) into account to determine the contrast of object and sky and the required threshold contrast. The difference of actual contrast and threshold contrast yields a measurement for the difficulty (or ease) you could see the object.

Second, E&T builds a lot of useful functions just around this prediction capability:

  • There is a database filter ("Object filter") that takes perceptibility into accout. You can setup search criteria based on object type, constellation, catalog names, yet observed or not (jsut like many other planners offer). You can setup serach criteria based on perceptibility (aperture of optics used, difficulty, faintest star at your observing site). And you can, of course, setup date and site, considering darkness or moonlight. It takes only seconds to find visible objects from the 130000+ objects database. E&T is built to perform even on modest hardware. Therefore it can be used for "instant planning" right beside your scope, when you are impatient to get candidate objects to look for. There are planners that take minutes to di such a task and their result is inferior.
  • You can compile objects to organize your own observing projects. With a few clicks, you update such a project to show you what objects were visible next night, with the scope you will use, with your site's faintest star. Just by clicking column headers, you sort out what you have already seen (and registered in your logbook) and what is waiting for you. See how a project looks. If have to insert a link as file size in the forum is restricted: image
  • You can collect objects in a detailled observing plan. All catalog, perception (scope, fst) and visibility (date, site, optimal observing time) data is organized in a clear and accessible way. For each object, an eyepiece view is rendered, taking contrast above threshold into account. Just spin the faintest star with the wheel of your mouse and see how an object rises out of the background! See how neighbor objects rise, too. Compare the performance of several scopes under the same conditions. Or find out what aperture would be required to glimpse an object.
    The observing plan allows you to link notes, files and images to an object. E&T ships with several thousands of "Images and Words", mostly on the NGC objects. You can export an observing plan to HTML. The generated pages hold all object data, the simulated eyepiece view, images (in the same orientation as your scope shows the object), all accessible neighborhood objects and even eyepiece recommendations.

    The following images shows a simulated eyepiece view of the Coma Berenices cluster (Abell 1656), using a 14.5" f/5.5 Dobsonian under a 6.0 mag sky. The field of view is that of a 35 mm Panoptic. In the software, objects are identified with tool tips when pointed upon.

    Posted Image

    Under inferior skies, with fst=5.3 mag, the two cluster dominating galaxies can be seen, but most of the other faint cluster members won't stand out against the background:

    Posted Image
  • E&T comes with an elaborated charting module. New charts do not show deep sky objects, but can be populated by inserting objects from a filter result, a project or a plan. Copy and paste as well Drag&Drop work everywhere. And if you insert or drop objects on a map, the contrast above threshold is shown with the same color as in the lists. Imagine: no more maps cluttered with invisible objects! The chart shows at first glance what the easy, intermediate and hard objects are. The charting module fast and most of its functions may be operated with a wheel mouse only. Pan and zoom or rotate the map without using the keyboard! Connect to you ASCOM controlled scope to have the chart following the scope's current position. You can have E&T to repopulate the chart with perceptible objects after a telescope slew - without the need to press or click anything. This is just the intelligent atlas that follows you through the skies.

    This is a chart depicting the Virgo cluster area, assuming an 80 mm refractor as your optics, with fst=5.3 mags (naked eye, but the chart goes deeper): image

    Now see how much more objects appear if fst is 6.0 mags, with the same 80 mm aperture: image

    Of course, aperture rules! Using a 14.5" Dobsonian under the suburban (fst=5.3 mags) sky, our chart looks like this:image

    You see that not all objects are labeled, due to lack of space. If you zoom in on this wealth of galaxies, they will be labeled as space is found, of course.

    Now see what the 14.5" shows under a 6.0 mag sky. This time, we have zoomed in on the Markarian's Chain region: image

    Frequently you want to print out a set of finder charts for several objects in your projects or plans. E&T has an automated "clustering" mode that finds chart viewports depicting several objects on one print page, if possible. No need to find the right chart centers for yourself, just let the program do this for you. You can have E&T to depict a finder chart with naked eye (overview) pane, finder pane (configurable to your needs) and telescope pane:
    These charts may be exported as JPGs, GIFs, PNGs, ... and as vector graphics files for editing with external software (WMF and EMF formats). Exported charts are free to use in non commercial context, of course - for example if you'd like to depict observed objects on a chart appearing on your website.

And there is so much more.

E&T finds an optimized path (minimal slew) for GOTO scopes. I know that other programs (like TheSky 6) do this already but compare the results and you will see that E&T just does better here.

E&T finds a good sequence of objects if all of them theoretically had to be viewed at the same best time (when darkness is complete or right before moonrise). This flavor of optimization than yields a minimum of "loss" of object elevation, especially taking care for objects already close to the horizon.

E&T's copy/paste and drag&drop capabilities extend beyond the program itself. You may copy an object's name in your word processor, web browser, spreadsheet or eleswhere and the paste it into a plan, project or map in E&T! This works if the object's name is recognized in E&T's database. Creating observing projects from lists on web pages is fast and easy with this!

There is a *very* powerful logbook. It's not only practice proven in structure, it even allows you to exchange your observations with other users - not only of Eye&Telescope, but with other applications as well. This is possible because E&T uses an evolving open XML based format instead of proprietary storage formats forcing you into vendor lock in. You can import your friends' observations - they are clearly recognized as their's and can be removed again without harming your own data. And the www.deepskylog.org web application is working to become compatible with the XML format. This means that some day you will be able to download observations for objects you are interested in and take them along. And you will be able to upload and share your observations! The Logbook (and all other documents you can maintain with E&T) allows you to export in almost every text based format. This is possible using XSLT (for those who know ;)). But there are many readily prepared export formats. Create a HTML page from your log entries to publish them on your own site. It's just a few clicks and seconds away.

E&T is developed by a seasoned observer and professional software developer. I have not only features and speed of execution in mind, but are looking for ease of use, good documentation and best possible support, too.

If you find this impressive, you will be surprised to hear that this software is sold for 59,90 Euros in Europe. Oculum Publishing (in Germany) is serving the European market. They are currently negotiating with potential resellers or publishers in the US. There is no official price but I'm pretty sure that it will be in the range of 60...80 US dollars. So Eye&Telescope 3.0 definitely is competitive in price and features. Anyone looking for a new or upgrades planner should no miss to check out E&T.

There is a demo version constrained to Messier objects only. Otherwise it is almost full featured. Check it out!

Right now, Oculum doesn't have an English website for Eye&Telescope. But I'm pretty sure that you will be able to pick out the demo without trouble. Look for the E&T web site and then the "Demoversion".

The download link for the demo is this (150 MB).

The demo has 150 MB because we want you to show at least a few of the thousands of pictures shipping with the full DVD version. You can select the "Union Jack" icon to switch to the english GUI, if the app didn't already recognize that it runs on an English/US language setting. This might be required for users in Spain, France, Italy, Russia, ...

For those that do not want to play with the demo (why?), a lot of German screenshots provide an impression of the program's look. I'm going to produce English screenshots soon and point you to them! But you will be able to learn a lot about the program even by inspecting the German pictures.

Clear skies,

#2 dandabson


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Posted 23 January 2009 - 07:50 AM

I downloaded and attempted to install on vista, no go.

#3 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 08:29 AM

For Vista, please try this:

Grant administrator privileges to the setup program.

Having installed, please open the ET.EXE's properties in Windows Explorer (right click on the file, select Properties). Grant administrator privileges to the application.

Do *not* turn on a compatibility mode. It slows down the app and might cause incomplete rendering here and there.

On the security settings tab, select voll access rights.

This is necessary because otherwise Vista does not allow E&T to write to its own databases.

I had to struggle a bit to get E&T running with Vista (on a fellows machine), but then it was as fast as never seen before.


#4 nfll


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Posted 23 January 2009 - 10:36 PM

Attempted download and received error, can't locate remote server as well as can't connect to web page?

#5 Tim A.

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 12:28 PM

Hmm ... I had no trouble accessing the web site. Maybe your ISP had a hiccup? Try again! Vista users will have to follow the few extra steps outlined above.

I've had a chance to use E&T 3.0 for some time now. It lets you create an observing list that's tailored to you and your telescope. You get to decide how deep into the "faint" you want to go with the "faint fuzzies." Or you can cook up a list that's perfect for a public event where mostly inexperienced observers need easy-to-see targets. And it has lots more to offer, as Tom's post describes.

I've very much enjoyed the software, and I think at the anticipated price it will be a winner. I hope it soon finds a good home for North American buyers!

Disclaimer: After meeting Tom in this forum, I volunteered my efforts to tidy up the English help for E&T 3.0. I received a nice book to acknowledge my efforts, but I have no stake, financial or otherwise, in this software.

#6 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 06:03 AM

I downloaded and attempted to install on vista, no go.

There is an updated version 3.0.1 on the website. It solves a Vista issue. You might either download the demo again (please use the link in the first posting) or update an already installed demo version: go to Downloads -> Updates -> Patch 3.0.1

On Vista, just run the setup and allow for actions Vista asks for permissions for. Having installed, please right click on ET.EXE in the installation directory or on the deskton icon, select Properties and deactivate visual designs in the "Compatibility" tab. No other special setup (like granting full access or running as an admin) is required. Just make sure that your machine has Service Pack 1 and the latest updates from Microsoft.


#7 kepler


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Posted 06 April 2009 - 02:46 AM


I do find it difficult to install in Vista I never got to the point where I could grant rights to the ET.EXE program.

I enabled the admin account and got the message "config.nt. The system file is not suitable for running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows Applications".

Do you know what I need to do to install Eye&Telescope?

Best regards


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