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New SkySafari version and 2012 DA14

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#1 btschumy

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:10 PM

It's time to spill the beans. Apple has just released SkySafari Plus/Pro 3.7.3 for iOS, and we've released SkySafari 1.7.3 for Mac OS X and Android.

About 2 weeks ago, we started to get these questions about 2012 DA14, and why our apps fail to predict its position accurately. The problem was that SkySafari - like basically all other mobile and desktop planetarium apps - models the motion of comets and asteroids as having a simple Keplerian, elliptical orbit around the Sun. We did not take pertubrations by Earth's gravity into account. So any orbit that describes the asteroid's motion before the flyby will completely fail to predict its position afterwards, and vide-versa. After answering this question the 327th time, I finally decided to do something better.

The solution was to build an "orbit integrator" into SkySafari. Instead of modelling the trajectory of the asteroid as a simple Keplerian ellipse, we now model it using true N-body newtonian physics, taking the gravitational perturbations of Earth (and the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) into account, along with a decent numerical method (4th order Runge-Kutta). It took a few tries to get this right. After reaching out to some professionals in the field of solar system dynamics, we got some assistance JPL as well. JPL has made clear that they cannot officially endorse any commercial product, but I can confidently say they were impressed that we got this working on a smartphone at all.

We did take some shortcuts. Our model does not take relativity into account, nor the oblateness of the Earth. We also don't include Mercury, Uranus, or Neptune in the set of asteroid-perturbing masses. (Smartphones, whiie very capable, are still not supercomputers. The code still has to run fast enough to be useable.) Nevertheless, even with these shortcuts, our model predicts the position of 2012 DA14 to within arcseconds of JPL's positions on the day of the flyby and for many days before and after. We've even run our integrator out 9 years into the past or future, for a selection of different asteroids and comets, and in nearly all cases it does much better than a simple Keplerian orbit. So we're very confident that we're doing the math right.

Anyhow, that's the theory. In practice, here's what you need to know.

1) Plus and Pro only. The integrator is not in the Basic version.

2) You still need to update your minor body orbit data, just like you did before. The orbit integrator is useless if it doesn't have a decent orbit to start from.

3) The integrator only gets "turned on" when you select a particular comet or asteroid, and it's only used for the asteroid/comet you selected.

4) We run the integrator for one year in the past and future from the date of the orbital elements, using a 1-hour timestep. All that math takes about 1.5 seconds on my iPhone 4, which is the slowest device I own. (You'll feel a brief pause when first selecting a new asteroid or comet).

5) Since we only run the integrator one year from the date of issue of the orbital elements, don't try to use it to find out if asteroid Apophis will hit Earth in 2036. It won't work. At least not in this release. Yet.

So that's it for now. Have fun with it, and let us know how it works for you.

-Tim & Bill

#2 Mark9473

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:55 PM

Congratulations Bill that's quite an achievement. Too bad my son just left the house for a few days and took his IPOD Touch with him.

#3 RodgerHouTex

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 03:57 PM

Nice of you to go through so much trouble. Sky Safari is my favorite app.

#4 Mary B

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 05:21 PM

Amazing what a tablet or smart phone can run these days. In the past it took a room full of computer equipment to do this.

#5 DwainM

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 05:54 PM

Thanks Tim and Bill!
I love my SkySafari Pro!
Controlling my CGEM-DX with my phone amazes me every time.
BR
Dwain

#6 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 10:53 PM

That's a great and impressive new feature. Congratulations.

#7 tezster

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:23 PM

Fantastic update! I absolutely love this piece of software, and it keeps getting better.

#8 Darren Bly

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 02:44 PM

WOW! Southern Stars continues to raise the bar!

#9 ahopp

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 03:11 PM

Well done Sirs, well done.

(Madams, too)

Tony

#10 Jeff2011

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 10:42 PM

I bought my copy of pro when it went on sale before the Venus transit and have been very impressed with it. I use it as my sky chart when observing. I just ran it today and it notified me of the asteroid da14 and took me to a very good YouTube demo of how to view the asteroid in sky safari. Good stuff.

#11 mfrissen

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 04:45 AM

Just a head's up for Sky Safari Plus owners: 1.7.3 update is (just in time!) now on the Mac Appstore.

#12 Dangerdad

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 11:25 AM

Android user here. I'm in version 1.7.4 of Plus and have updated my minor body data, and still don't see DA14 in the list of asteroids. Am I missing something trivial?

#13 Peds

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 12:10 PM

Android user here. I'm in version 1.7.4 of Plus and have updated my minor body data, and still don't see DA14 in the list of asteroids. Am I missing something trivial?


Maybe it's my bad eyesight, but I have not been able to find it either on my newly purchased Plus version. Went through the entire asteroids list three times!

P.

Edit: mine is the iOS Plus version though.

#14 Dangerdad

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 01:00 PM

Wait, I've found it now. I uninstalled/reinstalled just in case, but that may not have been needed. A search for the full string "2012 DA14" (sans quotes) pulled it up. Searching for 2012 by itself showed a list that didn't have DA14 in it. Searching for DA14 pulled up a double star.

I'm happily tracking it now.

#15 btschumy

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 03:08 PM

We don't display every asteroid in the Asteroids list. We have over 580,000 asteroids in the program. That would be quite a long list to scroll through. The Asteroid list only has the brightest asteroids.

Yes, you find it by searching for "2012 DA14"

#16 Sgt

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 04:18 PM

Thank you. It's amazing there's enough computing power on a smartphone for you to go this.

Too bad it's clouded out here, as usual!

#17 Peds

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 05:31 PM

Just an update on my part clarifying that I did indeed find the asteroid! Thanks for the great software Tim & Bill, having tons of fun!

P.

#18 DwainM

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 12:36 AM

I found it too! :D
Awesome sight, very dim but you could see it moving across the field of view. Sky Safari Pro put me right on it and I was able to follow it for quite a while. If went to look at something else and wanted to come back, all I had to do was look it up, center it and hit Go To and there it was.
Sweet. :jump:
You guys ROCK! :bow: :bow: :bow:

Dwain

#19 btschumy

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 09:10 AM

Excellent! Thanks for the report.

#20 Dangerdad

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 11:25 AM

Brings back memories. One fun program I did a looong time ago was using RK4 + Newtonian gravity to animate ~1000 non-colliding points. Good times.






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