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Starmap Pro has been released!

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#26 Darts

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 12:08 PM

As a former Astromist user on a Win-mo phone I was quite disappointed when my Winmo phone crapped out after 1 year and the Iphone3G happened to come on the scene at about the same time. Astromist was an awesome program for my needs and in fact convinced me to buy a 16" Lightbridge for the shear joy of "finding" objects instead of "Going to" objects with my goto scope.

When I first got my Ip3G the first apps I searched for were starmap programs and I downloaded almost all of them at about $10 each, needless to say, they were all a huge disappointment when compared to Astromist, as they only included the Messier list of objects, a few thousand stars and some gimmicky accelerometer tricks that were essentially useless.

Astromists HUGE catalog of objects and the filters were incredible. I Emailed the programmer of Astromist to ask if and when he would port over to the Iphone and sadly, he said he would not be porting over. That forced me to go out and buy S&T Pocket atlas, a great star chart in its own right.

Then Starmap Pro came on the scene this year, selling for $18.99 in the app store. This time, I read the reviews, toured the website and watched the video before plopping down my money. I must say I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw and read. I ponied up and was pleasantly surprised by all the features. I can't say its as feature rich or as complete as Astromist, but to be fair, Astromist is in version 2.6.1 last I checked and Starmap Pro is only version 1.1. Astromist has been around since 2003, Starmap Pro, 2009.

For now, SMP is the only game in town for Iphone3G users and for a new app, it does a great job. Some of the best features I like are as follows;

Eyepiece View, it allows you to enter entire EP collection, including AFOV, Focal length, barlows and even my Paracorr. Then when you are in EP View, you pinch to switch between all your EPs views. The accuracy is spot on, and if you have a barlow or paracorr installed, it calculates the difference in the magnification and AFOV. This feature is awesome for determining if you're actually seeing the object and helping you locate the object when you can't actually see it, like a nebula within a star cluster under light polluted skies of for finding faint galaxies using pointer stars in the FOV. The updated version includes the flipped and/or mirrored image indicator, depending on your scope type. It remains in that view even after closing the program until you change it. although I couldn't see the bubble nebula last night, I knew I was there and can find it when I get darker skies just by looking at the pattern of stars in the FOV.

Version 1.1 now has a finder that draws a line to the object from a well known or easily seen star near by, helping to locate an object if you are not a telrad user. I personally prefer a laser pointer or Red dot finder over the telrad and this finder allows me to point my laser at the approximate distance from the star to the object, basically triangulating to the object. I don't have to crane my neck in odd positions with the laser.

The Tonights Sky feature is very useful as it is displayed against a background that represents the time of night, the darkness level at that time and a complete list of the nights most brightest objects and some not so bright objects all grouped in to their various catagories like Galaxies, clusters, nebulas, planets. Taping on any one of the objects will bring up an info screen of that object, a display that represents its altitude in the sky at the present time or when it will be highest or best view for the night. If all filters are selected, it would be quite the challenge to view all the objects in the list in any one night without a goto scope. After viewing the info, you can click FIND and it will display on the map with the finder line drawn (or telrad if you choose).

On the issue of power consumption, when you're in the field, you have no use for wifi or bluetooth so I turn those off and I dim my display to about 1/3rd brightness. I also make sure I have 100% charge before going into the field. When I observe by myself, I like to listen to music so I have all my favorite music with me and the Ipod portion of the Iphone will play while this program runs. I don't like wearing the earphones so the built in speaker is good enough to hear, even when in my pocket. I'll get a good 4 to 6 hours of use on a full charge and because I have a 12vdc power supply with my scope to power the cooling fan, I also have my phone car charger with me if i run low on power. I can achieve 50% charge in about 30 mins or so. As for dew, so far this hasn't been an issue because I always keep it in my pocket when I'm not looking at it and I hit the main power button each time it goes into my pocket to save power. Someone mentioned that you can turn the auto lock off so it opens to the program instead of a bright wall paper, I'll have to try this, although my current wallpaper is the Cone Nebula ;)

So far this program has never crashed on me and there is something to be said for that considering a version 1.1. Its responsive to the touchand about the only draw back is there is no stylus, which means you need a bare finger or two at all times, even in the winter. I use the Hunters mittens that allow the fingers to be exposed when needed and they have a pouch inside to hold hand warmers. I also have those brown, cheap, utility gloves you can buy for about a buck a pair in packs of 6 that I wear with the hunters gloves and I made a couple slits in the index finger and thumb to allow me to use the Iphone.

I wasn't thrilled with the default night vision mode, but it turns out you can adjust the intensity of the various reds of the labels, stars, grids, object indicators etc through the color settings while in night vision mode. I can now read all the labels, have dimmed the grids and brightened the object indicators to my liking. Nice touch.

The catalogs are only NGC, IC and Messier, but there is also the Galaxy, Star, Planet, nebula and cluster catalogs that are divided by constellations. It will list the amount of galaxies or clusters in each constellation. Yes, I too would like to see other catalogs added, and I see no reason why this won't happen in future updates. But honestly, one can't really complain in good faith considering the version number and knowing that most other catalogs have an NGC or IC number anyway. I do like the idea of a colorful double star catalog or a Herschel 400 so I don't have to look in another book to find the NGC number. But again, updates are on the way and for $18.99, you can't beat this program. If you don't want or need your phone hooked up to your telescope, then this program is for you. If you have a Mac, you can hook it up to your scope. I rate it 4.5 stars out of 5 (there's always room for improvement) and for now, it is by FAR the best Iphone star chart out there.

Regards,

John C.

#27 CarterB

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 12:38 PM

Nice review John C. You pointed out some items I haven't noticed. However, one that I want that I haven't figured out is how from the Optics view to get it to help me star hop to an object. I want the finder arrow to appear in optics view but haven't figured that out. Can it be done?

#28 timmbottoni

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 12:45 PM

Hi Peter,

Look at the blue App Store icon and if it has a number in the corner, that number is telling you how many of your current apps have upgrades available.

Sometimes it is not up to date though so just in case, go ahead and launch the App Store and then look in the lower right corner and you will see a downward arrow, with the work Upgrades below it. This should also have a red circle with a number in it. Click the Upgrade arrow, and the resulting screen will be a listing of the available upgrades and just click each one you want to upgrade.

The App Store keeps track of all the apps you own and when upgrades are available.

If something is wrong and you aren't getting these upgrade notifications, or if you want to reinstall an app, the App Store will know which ones you own, as it keeps track of that by your account ID and you can always download the same app, regardless of if it is new or upgraded or not for free once you have paid for it before.

Hope that helps - it is pretty easy once you know how it works :jump: :jump:

Timm


Hi Timm--

I bought SMP a couple of months ago, and I like it very much. I have version 1.0, and have not been notified of the upgrade to version 1.1, and cannot figure out how to do the free upgrade. Can you tell me exactly how the free upgrade is supposed to work in itunes?

Thanks.

Peter



#29 timmbottoni

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 12:51 PM

Yes - Nice review John,

To answer your question, the finder arrow does show up in eyepiece view to help you scroll to the object, as long as it was also turned on before you went to eyepiece mode.

BUT - and this is important - if you are scrolling in the eyepiece view now (with the newest version) and you swipe your finger too quickly up-down or left-right it automatically initiates the view flip mode and the finder arrow will also flip directions.

Sorry - this one is hard to explain - just try it and you will see.

Timm

Nice review John C. You pointed out some items I haven't noticed. However, one that I want that I haven't figured out is how from the Optics view to get it to help me star hop to an object. I want the finder arrow to appear in optics view but haven't figured that out. Can it be done?



#30 pollux

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 01:36 PM

Nice. Already have the regular version running on my iPhone since day 1. Maybe I should get the Pro version now. Giving the developer some support...

And who knows? iPhone OS 3 now allows access to accessories through dock port/USB or Bluetooth (based on what's spoken from the WWDC keynote right now). Some day we can control our GOTO mounts with our iPhone/iPod touch as backup. This is gonna be very handy as the recent batch of SynScan controllers have really high % of breakdown

#31 Canon Pete

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 03:08 PM

Just purchased SMP at the weekend there. Well impressed, esp' with the Star listings, saves hassle when doing an alignment, least I know what star I need to look for thru' the EP !!

#32 pollux

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 09:27 PM

Just purchased SMP at the weekend there. Well impressed, esp' with the Star listings, saves hassle when doing an alignment, least I know what star I need to look for thru' the EP !!


That's why I felt so upset when I was forced to sell my Sphinx mount. I was so used to the map built in its StarBook unit.

Now I am on a SynScan-based mount I have to take my iPhone out and launch Starmap to find out where those "what the **** is it" alignment stars are.

#33 iluxo

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 07:53 AM

Minor issue - I've discovered Aries/Ram are missing from the list of constellations, although shown on the map.

I tried emailing the developer via his website but it appears that part of the site is broken.

One possibility that this could open up concerns push-to scopes that currently use Argo Navis or Sky Commander. If someone can find a way to get the outputs from two shaft encoders out as HTTP over a WiFi connection such that StaMap Pro can show where the scope is pointing, this would be quite useful to a lot of users of dobs and altaz mounts.

By this means you could stick the iPhone anywhere on the scope with some Velcro and use it as the finder :)

It's possible to find a low-power 12V WiFi base station that would do the job. Even a USB WiFi stick might do.

As for controlling the scope... I have the Vixen Starbook (I have an SXW) which suggests there is rather a lot more to controlling the scope than meets the eye if StarMap Pro is going to actually be useful as a telescope controller, and if all it does is duplicate the StarBook (badly) then there isn't much point.

Lastly there are some mounts that have a HTTP interface built-in - no need for ASCOM, and in principle no need for the Mac either if the developer would support this - the Vixen Starbook Controller (Vixens SXW, SXD and Atlux).

#34 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 15 June 2009 - 07:02 AM

By this means you could stick the iPhone anywhere on the scope with some Velcro and use it as the finder :)

Digital setting circles do a perfect job as a finder, at least for me. If I need a detailled chart to track down a faint fuzzy, I ask for more stars and objects on the screen than *any* mobile device astro software can provide. Otherwise you run out of details before it gets really helpful. But if I look for some target that's bright and big enough to be covered by a mobile app then chances are good that I do not need the support of the software - DSCs suffice in such cases.

It's possible to find a low-power 12V WiFi base station that would do the job. Even a USB WiFi stick might do.

Interesting hint, thanks.

As for controlling the scope... I have the Vixen Starbook (I have an SXW) which suggests there is rather a lot more to controlling the scope than meets the eye if StarMap Pro is going to actually be useful as a telescope controller, and if all it does is duplicate the StarBook (badly) then there isn't much point.

I agree. Just sending out slew commands or show in a map where you go is nice, but it misses out on a lot of useful features a computer beside the scope can give. Think of logging, find neighboring objects, assess object's perceptibility or optimize a tour for minimal slewing. Of course all of this is possible on a mobile device, but currently such advanced features are neither incorporated in hardware like the Starbook nor are they available in more than a handful of PC/Mac applications.

Lastly there are some mounts that have a HTTP interface built-in - no need for ASCOM, and in principle no need for the Mac either if the developer would support this - the Vixen Starbook Controller (Vixens SXW, SXD and Atlux).

Aside of what you mentioned, HTTP is not widespread for mount controllers. AFAIK there is no standard protocol to control a scope via HTTP. Being able to establish a connection is not enough, systems have to understand each other.

I have experimented with a Bluetooth connection between the Skycommander and the notebook. It worked, but now I've changed my mind. I more and more dislike to have the notebook in the back of the car and not right by the scope. I want to have the display within reach, not meters apart.

So I will try to work out a solution where a lightweight netbook (Eee PC) rides on the scope. A simple cable between SC and netbook will replace the Bluetooth stuff formerly used. Since this reduces complexity and gear needed, I currently favour this way. A bit of plywood, some nuts and bolts instead of Wifi router, extra batteries, driver problems and (at last) not the software support I want to have. I'm working to bring *my* software as close to the scope as possible - mechanically.

Clear skies,
Tom

#35 Chote

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:45 AM

The only additional feature which I like SMP to include is the Jupiter GRS and events functions like what Astromist provides.

#36 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 03:34 AM

I'd like to see a new view graphically displaying an overview of the times of sunset, twilight, night and, of course, moonlight.

Example:
Posted Image

Such a "monthly darkness diagram" is among the features I use very often. Having the main phases of the moon given somewhere drilled down is OK, but I'd like to see more, please.

CS,
Tom

#37 StarmanDan

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 10:09 PM

This looks great! My wife is supposed to get me an iPhone for father's day, you can bet this will be one of the first things I put on it!

#38 peter k

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 05:22 PM

If I need a detailled chart to track down a faint fuzzy, I ask for more stars and objects on the screen than *any* mobile device astro software can provide. Otherwise you run out of details before it gets really helpful. But if I look for some target that's bright and big enough to be covered by a mobile app then chances are good that I do not need the support of the software - DSCs suffice in such cases.


Starmap Pro plots stars to mag 12,deeper than Millennium Star Atlas. You need deeper than that?

#39 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 05:01 AM

Try to locate Pluto our a quasar within reach of a moderate size dobsonian and you will find that 12 mag is good, but not enough. Try to pick out a minor planet in a rich star field. Or try to spot a faint galaxy in a barren starfield, devoid of 12 mag stars or "brighter".

Admitted, these are not requirements for everyone but intermediate and advanced observers will ask for more, at least in some interesting and exciting cases. And this does not mean that Starmap pro is not useful. It's just restricted for some applications. But this is no problem, because we can always prepare deeper charts at home or use additional means. For instant observing with binoculars or travel scopes it will be fine. I have used Starmap pro a couple of times and really like it. But as with every other software, there are omissions and restrictions. Never mind, but users should just know about.

Tom

#40 peter k

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 04:49 PM

Try to locate Pluto our a quasar within reach of a moderate size dobsonian and you will find that 12 mag is good, but not enough. Try to pick out a minor planet in a rich star field. Or try to spot a faint galaxy in a barren starfield, devoid of 12 mag stars or "brighter".


Tom


I admit I have not tried these things, except the last. I do think, however, that StarMap Pro's database is generally very useful for most intermediate users' needs.

#41 alessandro71

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 05:35 AM

A new update for the Starmap (pro edition) has been just released.
It seems that now Starmap pro edition can use both the compass and the accelerometer embedded into the Iphone 3GS.
The program can pinpoint your location so as to show you the exact portion of sky you are looking at.

I could not test it because I have the Ipod Touch.

#42 Nick Cook

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Posted 22 July 2009 - 05:48 AM

Wow... Exactly what I was after. Then of course I'm mid-contract with my iPhone, so will have to wait to upgrade to the 3GS.

This in theory should make this a real alternative to the Skyscout and MySky. Anyway, excellent news.

Nick

#43 Astraforce Paul

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 09:47 AM

Just catching up on this thread! John, fantastic details on the use of SMP in the field!

You highlighted several features that I didn't even know where there or had been added--or whose power had gone unrecognized. I'm thinking, for example, of the find line to an object, the fov orientation arrows, and the Tonight mode.

Tonight Mode

As to the Tonight mode, his use of the term "Filters" threw me off. A couple are actually Sorting Order! You can choose, e.g., between Mag and Rise/Set time (it switches between the two) and that changes the list. There is no way of choosing a mag cut-off, but that doesn't matter as one can stop scrolling through a list organized by magnitude.

Finger Taps and Cold Weather!

You also pointed out a very important problem... not with SMP, but with the i-devices in general. Namely, having to use your finger to tap the screen! That's a bear for anyone observing in cold, wintry weather. OTOH, there are styli for the i-devices that apparently do work. That would seem to be essential to avoid frostbite! :)

Disaster Concerns

Me, I'm still hesitant to use in the dark a $250+ device--or one that I'd depend on for calls and daily life! One drop and there goes work, business, school, etc. Or, it becomes the victim of unexpected condensation, moisture, or dew. Or, an inadvertent tossing the i-device to the ground because one lost their grip doing the flip motion to switch between eyepiece and big sky view! :)

By the way, is there another way of doing that, besides having to go More, Optics, None, Back, etc. and then being left with a different menu bar?

For now, sticking with ye old SONY Clie SJ 33, running Palm OS 4 and Planetarium and keeping my IPT indoors nice and warm. Of course, for iPhone owners, the trick could be to get a used iPod Touch 2G when the new ones come out and use that for astro field work! That way, any drop, dew, or flip disaster wouldn't matter for phone, calendar, and todo the next day!

#44 rmollise

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 04:42 PM




Disaster Concerns

Me, I'm still hesitant to use in the dark a $250+ device--or one that I'd depend on for calls and daily life! One drop and there goes work, business, school, etc. Or, it becomes the victim of unexpected condensation, moisture, or dew. Or, an inadvertent tossing the i-device to the ground because one lost their grip doing the flip motion to switch between eyepiece and big sky view! :)


Not a concern. Any device that holds up as a phone will do fine on an observing field. I've dropped 'em on uncarpeted floors without disaster (a case is recommended), and a nice grassy field is a lot more forgiving. I wouldn't own a piece o' gear I was a-feared to use. ;)

I loved and used Palms for a long time. I am over them. :lol:

#45 Astraforce Paul

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 12:50 PM

Maybe not a concern to you, but it is some of us!

Let's see if your tune doesn't change the first time you drop and break your i-device! :)

Or, when you end up being afflicted by the dreaded condensation, moisture problem and have no cell phone or calendar-task list for a several days thereafter! (Or worse, discover that your device no longer functions and is not covered by warranty due to moisture damage!)

At that point, the good old, inexpensive, still working fine, and cheaply replaceable Palm will look pretty darn good!

Plus, at this point, the Palm platform has astro programs the i-devices still lack and the major Palm astro programs (e.g., Astromist, Planetarium) have key star charting features that the i-apps are still missing!

While the i-apps are catching up, and have some novel and very useful features the Palm can only dream of, I still much prefer having Planetarium & a Palm PDA outside with me, along with the dozen+ custom observing catalogs I've added over the years that I can display as needed to suit the particular scope I have out.

#46 Nick Cook

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 10:35 AM


Let's see if your tune doesn't change the first time you drop and break your i-device! :)

Or, when you end up being afflicted by the dreaded condensation, moisture problem and have no cell phone or calendar-task list for a several days thereafter! (Or worse, discover that your device no longer functions and is not covered by warranty due to moisture damage!)


Water resistant cases like this probably make a lot of sense for the iPhone:

http://www.extremepd...EDEFOTT-BY.html

Nick


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