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New Tool: DSO Browser

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#1 sebagr

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 05:32 PM

Hi!

I've been reading CN for a while now but never posted anything. I think this is my first post so, hi! :)

Since I bought my first telescope I've always found myself thinking which objects I could see each day from my place, both for observing and doing some AP.

I always wanted a tool that would let me answer questions like "Which DSOs can I see from my lat/long, 8th magnitude or less, between 8 pm and 4 am, reaching 45 degrees above the horizon for at least 2 hours?"

Since I'm a programmer (and thanks to the Saguaro Astronomy Club for letting me use their DB!) I decided to do this tool myself. Now I've managed to get a decent version after working for some time and I wanted to share it with you: the DSO Browser, at http://dso-browser.com

In the newest browsers (Firefox 3.5, Safari 5, Chrome 5, Opera 10.6 and above) you'll see the possibility to automagically detect your local coordinates. If you don't see it, you can just enter them manually. From there, you can set all kind of filters: type of object, apparent magnitude and size, minimum altitude, etc. Just bear in mind that any filters you set will restrict the search more and more, so leave some options empty if you're not sure what you're looking for.

The result page will be a paginated list of DSOs that can be seen from that place, showing approximate rise, transit and set times above the minimum desired altitude.

At the bottom of the page there's a contact form you can use to let me know your suggestions. I'm planning to include more features, but I believe I managed to get a decent enough version to share with you so those who wanted to use it could benefit from it.

Please note: this is not an exact application, just approximate enough to help in your observation/astrophotography sessions, so don't expect 'surgical precision' in the calculations :)

Hope you like it, I look forward to your comments!

Clear skies,

Sebastian
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#2 azure1961p

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 05:41 PM

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#3 uniondrone

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 09:08 PM

Cool idea! I like the concept a lot.

There seems to be an issue with the surface brightness field for the search terms. When I select field values for these it always seems to return no hits. It doesn't seem to be a "directional" issue, as it doesn't seem to matter whether I put the low end of the range or the high end of the range in the either field for that parameter.

#4 sebagr

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 10:08 PM

Hi guys, thanks for your feedback :)

@Pete: the website does not track you, it's just using your web browser default implementation to find an approximate latitude and longitude. This is just for convenience so you don't need to enter it manually (which is required anyway if you want to see what's available in your area).

But your suggestion's fair enough, so I disabled the auto localization feature. Now you can trigger that behavior clicking on the top right 'Find my location' button, or just enter your coordinates manually.

@Chuck: yeah, I've spotted that issue as well. The problem is that if you select a lower/upper bound to the surface brightness it automatically excludes all those objects without that info. I'm planning to add a pulldown, similar to the Magnitude section, giving the option to include/exclude those objects with unknown surface brightness.

Thanks again!

#5 sebagr

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 10:24 PM

@Chuck: I've now added that include/exclude feature. You'll see a big difference in the amount of objects found setting lower and/or upper bounds to the surface brightness and then changing this include/exclude option.

The problem is that, to get a surface brightness, you need two pieces of information: the apparent magnitude and size. If there's one of them missing, then you can't compute the surface brightness. That's why there are so many objects with S.B.

#6 C_Moon

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 11:21 PM

Awesome tool! I like the auto locate feature (w/ regard to privacy concerns, that info is there for the taking anyway, isn't it?).

One problem I had was sorting by set time (didn't seem to work). Also, if you click on a column heading, it will sort by that parameter, but that feature did not seem to work for rise, transit or set times (screen just went blank). I got around it somewhat by sorting by RA.

One thing that would be useful, but perhaps it is not easy to do, would be to allow the user to pick an object, and then tell you the best dates to view based on altitude and time constraints (e.g., dates when M22 is >30 deg altitude between 1am and 3am).

Thanks for posting, I'll be sure to bookmark!

#7 skybsd

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 01:56 AM

Hello,
Thanks for working on this..,

I've just tried it and have the following questions / comments: -

1] It would be useful to know which of the fields are absolutely mandatory

2] For each field from "Apparent Magnitude" through to "Object Coordinates", you may wish to consider adding tooltips that explain in more detail about each field and how respective values affect results

3] Following from [2], for each field from "Apparent Magnitude" through to "Object Coordinates", you may wish to consider either pre-loading corresponding "generalized", default values, or add notes for each field that explain the impact of leaving blank on the results

4] Completing only my coordinates, and supplying a "Minimum Altitude" of "10", plus leaving all fields from "Apparent Magnitude" through to "Object Coordinates" blank or with whatever is there initially, does generate a results table, but all with Null values for "Rise", "Transit" and "Set" columns.

Thanks again!

Regards,

skybsd

#8 nytecam

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 03:41 AM

Great utility - it's been bookmarked - thanks for sharing :bow:

#9 Jim Curry

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 08:02 AM

Hmm, I don't see the "find my location" button.

Jim

#10 sebagr

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 08:43 AM

@Paul: yeah, privacy is always an issue, isn't it? For those who are wondering about this, please know all I did was to follow these guidelines: http://www.w3.org/TR/geolocation-API/

All the code related to geolocation is client-side, so you can see what's going on there: it's just a simple call to a browser's routine, and it's the browser itself who's finding your location, not the site. Then, the browser shares it with the site, that's all.

Note: doing this and posting the form to the site is exactly the same as entering that info manually, which is required anyway if you want to filter objects by your location :)

RE: sorting by set time, I believe that's fixed now - it was a problem due to migration to a new framework. Thanks for picking that up!

And your suggestion was noted, thanks. It'd be really useful to know the best dates to view an object, shouldn't be that hard to do (that's what I thought when I started with this and I went waaay wrong, so... :))



@skybsd: Thanks for your suggestions, really appreciated!

Tooltips would be great indeed; being the programmer and having a pretty good picture of how it works internally makes me forget some times that it's not that obvious indeed. I'll add some kind of guidelines later.

Regarding 4], the rise/transit/set columns will only show if and only if the objects you're seeing actually cross the minimum altitude.

Depending on how you sort the results (maybe DEC?) you're seeing circumpolar objects first and there's logically no rise/set times for those. I should display the transit time for those anyway so I'll do that, thanks :)

That said, to be able to see exactly why you don't see rise/set times for some objects, I'd need to know your coordinates. If you want, feel free to use the contact form on the page pasting the current URL you're seeing (which includes all the filters and will allow me to actually see the issue) or PM me with it. Thanks!



@Jim: if you don't see the "Find my location" button is because your browser does not support it. There's no point in showing it at all in that chase, or is it? :)

I believe this is the list of browsers supporting geolocation: Firefox 3.5, Safari 5, Chrome 5, Opera 10.6 and above. Which browser are you using to see the site?

#11 Carl Kolchak

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 02:43 PM

Hi Sebastian,

Thanks for making it available for us. One suggestion for me is to allow another color scheme. I'm 50 years old and am having a hard time reading the page. Maybe you could include an option for an easy to read color format??

peace & clear skies,

#12 stevecoe

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 02:55 PM

Once I gave you permission to use the data from the SAC database, you may also use the info I put into the documentation (SACDOC). It contains my explanation of each of the fields and what is in them. If you find it useful, or something you can start with and add onto, then please go ahead and include it on the website.

Enjoy;
Steve Coe

#13 sebagr

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 03:12 PM

@Carl: I see from an email I got from the contact form on the site that you found the 'Night mode' switch at the top right, so no further comments there. Glad you like it :)


@Steve: hi, and thanks again for letting me use the SAC DB :)


I'll probably add some bits of the documentation indeed. I believe the challenge here is to make something easy to use without bloating it with tons of text, input boxes, buttons, etc. (and I'm already failing somewhat in that aspect, so I'm planning to make that filters box neater).

That said, I'll probably add non-intrusive tooltips here and there, so those who have doubts can read them with a simple mouseover, and those who don't won't get their screen wasted with text they don't need to see.

Clear skies!

#14 scott m

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 04:27 PM

Hi Sebastian,

Thanks for making it available for us. One suggestion for me is to allow another color scheme. I'm 50 years old and am having a hard time reading the page. Maybe you could include an option for an easy to read color format??

peace & clear skies,

If it's in red click the night mode button at the top.

#15 uniondrone

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 04:42 PM

@Chuck: yeah, I've spotted that issue as well. The problem is that if you select a lower/upper bound to the surface brightness it automatically excludes all those objects without that info. I'm planning to add a pulldown, similar to the Magnitude section, giving the option to include/exclude those objects with unknown surface brightness.


The brightness sorter seems to work now. Excellent! Also, it seems that you fixed another issue that I didn't mention before: the object types in the check list had a habit of sometimes de-selecting themselves. It doesn't seem that they do it anymore.

Very nice, indeed! Oh, and by the way, welcome to Cloudy Nights!

Oh, one more thing: it seems that selecting by size only works for the large end of the range, i.e. you can only choose object that are smaller than the selected size. It would be nice to have the small end active as well, especially for planetary nebulae searches, where some are only a few arcseconds across. Thanks!

#16 uniondrone

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 04:48 PM


...and one more thing, it would be nice to be able to sort by constellation. Thanks again! :)

#17 sebagr

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 04:54 PM

Hey Chuck,

Thanks for your welcome! :D

Re: sizes, the small end seems to work fine for me. I've just tried selecting DSOs between 1 and 2 arcminutes, 30/60 and 200+ (min 200, max field empty) and in all cases worked just fine.

The thing is, those figures are in arcminutes. If you want to see < 1 arcminute objects, just set the max size to 1 arcminute and you're done.

Let me know if it's working now for you.

Maybe I should add more limits, say 10, 20 and 30 arcseconds... I'll do that in the next days, thanks for your feedback!

#18 sebagr

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 05:26 PM

...and one more thing, it would be nice to be able to sort by constellation. Thanks again! :)


There you go, feature added!

#19 Tim A.

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 05:38 PM

It wants to track my physical location - oh theres a winning attribute.

... I dont trust the programs intentions, but it could possibly be "OK". I just dont see why my other programs dont need to track me.

Sounds suspicious. Sorry.

Any web site that wants to know where you are located when browsing (roughly, according to IP address assignments) can and does know. Were you unaware of that?

Truly, anyone who is frightened by what this site was doing has no business being on the web.

Sorry.

#20 sebagr

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 12:47 PM

Hi guys,

Just a quick message to let you know that I keep working on it.

I've just added a new feature: clicking on an object will take you to a new page where you can see detailed information plus an image of each object, using the Google Sky plugin - so you can actually see what that object is all about and browse its surroundings.

Clear skies,

S.

#21 skybsd

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 02:37 PM

Man - you're cooking :waytogo:

Fantastic work!

Regards,

skybsd

#22 Jim Curry

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 05:26 AM

Sebagr:
I've been off for awhile, I use Explorer V8. I believe it supports auto geolocating due to the ads that scroll by when I'm on news websites.

Jim

#23 sebagr

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 08:06 AM

Sebagr:
I've been off for awhile, I use Explorer V8. I believe it supports auto geolocating due to the ads that scroll by when I'm on news websites.

Jim


Hey Jim,

IE 8 does not support geolocation natively, only after installing Google Gears I believe, sorry :(

In fact, I'm not sure if IE 9 will support it either! They are soooo behind all other browsers...

If you see localized ads it's mainly because Google can get an approximate idea of your location using your IP address, but that's done server-side - i.e. not inside your browser but in the server when you request any resource, being a web page, image, etc.

Clear skies,
S.

#24 azure1961p

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 06:46 PM

You know between the doublestar search engine in the Doublestar Forum and now this program in this forum I'm really armed for putting together a nights viewing.

If I were to suggest anything, and its perfect as is right now, I d think it ideal if with the onjects listed it also shows the number of the atlas pages they can be found on in Uranometria and Millenium. Now that means an awful lot of tedium - its not needed but its a thought.

I love the power of the program in putting a nights agenda together.

Pete

#25 sebagr

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 01:59 PM

One thing that would be useful, but perhaps it is not easy to do, would be to allow the user to pick an object, and then tell you the best dates to view based on altitude and time constraints (e.g., dates when M22 is >30 deg altitude between 1am and 3am).


Hey Paul,

I wanted to let you know that this is almost in place now.

If you make a search and click on 'more info' for any object, you'll see a new section telling you the best period of time to see that object at midnight from your location.

I'll add the ability to specify the transit hour in the near future.

Anyway, just a heads up.

Clear skies!

S.






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