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Star-hopping with SkySafari

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#1 doublediamond

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 02:49 PM

I recently got an iPhone, and SkySafari Plus was one of the first apps I downloaded based on reviews. I did spend some time reading the entire user's manual to learn the features. I preferred reading it on the Southern Stars website instead of on the phone because I could try and test features as I read, instead of switching back and forth between the app and the help menu. So far, I am enjoying the app and getting a lot of use out of it. I am a star-hopper, so I did not research the telescope control features.

Earlier this week, I was using the app at the scope as my main tool to star-hop, replacing a traditional printed atlas. I wanted to share my experience and see what other members are doing with the app.

To get the image dim enough, I placed a red film over the entire iPhone screen and turned the phone's brightness down all the way in the iPhone settings. Then I activated night mode in the app and set it to prevent auto-lock. With the Bluetooth off, my battery lasted all night - a good 9 hours.

I disabled auto rotation because I physically turned the phone around to whatever orientation matched the finder and/or eyepiece, just like I turn a printed atlas in my hands. I turned on the finder ring along with the cardinal direction guides.

To help in picking out the stars, I turned the Star Symbol Size setting all the way to 200%. I also removed all names of stars, planets, and DSOs, and removed all grid lines and coordinates (they were distracting). The only thing I displayed was the actual DSO symbols, the stars, the constellation lines, and the meridian line. I also turned down the intensity of DSO symbols to about 65%. I found this to be a good star-hopping "environment." Has something similar or different worked for others? I'd be interested to read what others have tried to make the most use of the app at the telescope.

Of course, a lot of the features or settings I disabled are useful when using the app to plan a session or share info at a public event - but that's why I like the feature to save and apply different settings files.

A few questions/suggestions that would help my star-hopping experience:

I found the menu bar to be in the way or too bright at times. Is there a way to auto-hide it - or maybe minimize it to a small corner that I would hit to bring it back when needed?

Also, sometimes I would lose my object when I flipped the phone around or panned around to stars. For instance, I would search for my target, a galaxy perhaps, and center in the star chart. Then I need to zoom out to find a bright star nearby and zoom in. Now I have an idea of how far I need to hop and in what direction. Then I point my telescope to that bright star, and rotate the phone to match the star field. At this point, I have lost where my target galaxy is. With a printed atlas, distance and direction is easy to gauge because I can see the whole page, but it's slightly more difficult with the app because of the zooming and turning. It would be great if I could set a DSO as my "target," maybe in a star-hop mode, and an arrow would appear to let me know in which direction I need to go. Is something like this available at all?

Sorry if these questions have already been asked in this forum.

#2 core

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:37 AM

Not much suggestions here, other that from *my* experience, I found Starmap HD much easier for me than SkySafari Pro on an ipad to use as a star hopping tool - the main reasons being that without have to delve into menus, I can, from the main screen, instantly:

- toggle telrad overlay
- switch to any eyepiece or finder view and 'zoom' in and out from my preset selection of eyepiece/fov combos.
- flip eyepiece view for any image reverse direction

In general, I orientate for a quick visual cue of where I should be at, tap on the object to 'lock' it and overlay telrad or zoom into finder and eyepiece view. After which a quick swipe U/D L/R to flip the image depending on optics used, and finally a quick photo overlay that gives you a better estimate of object size and orientation. All this from the customized menu bar at the bottom of the main screen.

#3 Lane

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 04:32 AM

Not much suggestions here, other that from *my* experience, I found Starmap HD much easier for me than SkySafari Pro on an ipad to use as a star hopping tool - the main reasons being that without have to delve into menus, I can, from the main screen, instantly:

- toggle telrad overlay
- switch to any eyepiece or finder view and 'zoom' in and out from my preset selection of eyepiece/fov combos.
- flip eyepiece view for any image reverse direction

In general, I orientate for a quick visual cue of where I should be at, tap on the object to 'lock' it and overlay telrad or zoom into finder and eyepiece view. After which a quick swipe U/D L/R to flip the image depending on optics used, and finally a quick photo overlay that gives you a better estimate of object size and orientation. All this from the customized menu bar at the bottom of the main screen.



They added all that to Sky Safari last year. Two little pop up menus come up directly in the star map, which will let you adjust everything you need to adjust to star hop easily. You just touch the top left corner or top right corner to get see those menus and then you can make quick adjustments to pretty much everything important. I find I rarely go to the main settings menu anymore. I especially like being able to increase or decrease the magnitude of the stars being displayed so I can make the map view match what I see in the scope. I use sky safari all the time on my iPad for star hopping instead of my laminated atlases and find it much easier to use. I am not sure how easy it would be on a smaller screen though, I doubt I would use an iPod Touch at all for astronomy or anything else that size.

#4 helpwanted

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:53 AM

I never saw the pop up menus before! Thank you!

#5 core

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 11:48 PM

Lane, thanks for the info/update ... back to trying out SSPro then!

#6 mark8888

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:22 AM

Also thanks, I didn't know that, I've been going to the main settings menu... cool.

#7 skysurfer

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 04:19 AM

Nice this works on my Android device too ! Great work done @btschumy !

Only thing I'd like when a selected object is out of the field, an arrow should point to the object like in Starmap HD which I used before on the iPad.

#8 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:55 AM

What are you using for a red filter on the screen?

#9 skysurfer

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 07:18 AM

What are you using for a red filter on the screen?

You ask me ?

I use a $1 hobby shop transparent red foil. I made a cardboard sleeve with the front cut open to the screen size and the red foil pasted into it to see the screen and access the touch screen. The touchscreen works without problems via the foil.
I did this for both the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy S2.
With Skysafari the 'night mode' is still better even with red foil as it results in better contrast (and lower battery consumption on the Galaxy Amoled screen as only the red pixels are enabled).
Moreover the device is somewhat protected against moisture.


#10 core

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 11:58 PM

They added all that to Sky Safari last year. Two little pop up menus come up directly in the star map, which will let you adjust everything you need to adjust to star hop easily. You just touch the top left corner or top right corner to get see those menus and then you can make quick adjustments to pretty much everything important.


Okay, finally tried it on both v3.2 ipad/android devices(not in the s/w), it's there but no dice compared to StarMapHD - you only get a choice of FOV in fixed degrees, and clunkier way of selection. In StarMapHD you can enter a database of scopes that you have (aperture&f/l), barlows and focal reducers, and a set of *my* eyepieces with f/l and apparent FOV (also CCD image sizes). One tap of the Eyepiece view button and you get a calculated TFOV displayed. Changing eyepieces is as simple as pinch-zoom within the ep view circle, and your current ep selection, magnification and TFOV is displayed on the top left corner. This eyepiece view goes seamlessly from low-power finder/binos to highest power ep and all the different imaging sensors that I've entered. In field use I have found the eyepiece view to be very accurate and can plot out all the stars in the actual ep as displayed on the screen - really helps when I'm trying to place the exact location of the DSO I'm trying to find within the star field of the ep.

Likewise with the flip view, it's not a 4-button choice, but a more intuitive (Apple-like) L/R U/D swipe. Also, SSPro's either-or choice of Alt-Az or RA-Dec read-out, why not just show both like the other program? (SSPro's ecliptic and galactic would be of much less use in the field imo)

I guess it's probably all a personal preference as to which s/w one prefers, but I really wished some of these would make it to SSPro (StarMapHD has its share of issues but that's a whole other thread), and overall I just find SMHD much more satisfying to use for in-the-field star-hopping. Mind you, I've already paid for SSPro three times in the past year - twice on iOS (v2.1 and then v3.0.5 as there was curiously no upgrades, bummer there), and then again with the Android version - and I do enjoy the program.

#11 pjglad

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 01:50 PM

I have SkySafari plus and Starmap Pro & HD. I tried to fall in love with Starmap, but it did not happen. I really liked the EP & Tonight feature set, but Starmap has a major contrast problem. SkySafari is so clear and crisp, while Starmap is dim and extremely hard to see objects. Perhaps it's me, but I tried to enhance the image via settings, but no cigar.

#12 Lane

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 02:31 PM

I like the orientation buttons in SSpro but that eyepiece selection thing sounds pretty nice, we should let Bill know about that so he can put it into a future version of SSpro. Right now they are busy beefing up the observing lists features in SSpro, that is what I am really looking for to getting since I like to make GOTO lists and work from them rather than the starmap when using my CGEM.

#13 btschumy

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:31 PM

We've been talking about calculated FOV indicators based upon your equipment for a year now. It just hasn't made it in yet. It will eventually.

#14 cheapersleeper

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 04:17 PM

Mr. Tschumy, your product is so feature rich, even in plus version, that it is taking me a while just to get things set up in the most usable fashion. Such a beautiful app and here I am turning off most of the pretty stuff so that it will be as easy to view on my 8" tablet as possible. Hats off to you and your company for making such a great product.

Regards,
Brad

#15 helpwanted

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 07:19 PM

I would love to see, in the star chart mode, the name of an object either regular font, or bold, using bold after you record a personal observation or even just check it off as observed.
This way, when star hoping, you can quickly see what you have and have not seen.

#16 Astraforce Paul

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 12:47 PM

Really like the addition of the FOV and mag boxes to Sky Safari. But I keep expecting--and wanting--the FOV box to vanish as soon as I pick one! I understand the design decision, but an option would be nice. It’d also be good if we could choose the fovs listed.

Surprisingly, Starmap Pro still doesn't give us control over the magnitude of DSOs!! You get only 1 control and it's for the stars! Its stars are also too grey, but its instant on/off eyepiece view (and mini-photos of DSOs) are great.

Both could use mag settings by *type*[/color] of object--fainter for galaxies and brighter for clusters, etc. That would help with observing.

In any event, I really appreciate the tip about the 200% symbol size in Sky Safari-- that does make the stars show up much better in narrow fovs.

OTOH, if you forget to turn that off, the bright stars *and* the planets end up as HUGE blobs in big sky fields of view. I couldn't figure out what was going on with the planets until I remembered that I had changed the star size at one point (of course, star size really shouldn't affect planet size!! :))

#17 Sloan

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 10:07 PM

You can put in custom FOV in SkySafari Display settings. I did it for my 20X80 binoculars which as a 3.7 FOV.
A major up grade to SkySafari is coming out before May 20. It will be 3.5. You can read about here on the Yahoo group site. http://tech.groups.y...rs/message/3643

#18 Astrosetz

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 11:41 PM

Once again, you guys rock!

#19 weezy

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 06:36 AM

Which version has the popup menus? I have plus, and a Nexus S phone. No popup in either corner.

#20 doublediamond

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 07:55 AM

Also, sometimes I would lose my object when I flipped the phone around or panned around to stars. For instance, I would search for my target, a galaxy perhaps, and center in the star chart. Then I need to zoom out to find a bright star nearby and zoom in. Now I have an idea of how far I need to hop and in what direction. Then I point my telescope to that bright star, and rotate the phone to match the star field. At this point, I have lost where my target galaxy is. With a printed atlas, distance and direction is easy to gauge because I can see the whole page, but it's slightly more difficult with the app because of the zooming and turning. It would be great if I could set a DSO as my "target," maybe in a star-hop mode, and an arrow would appear to let me know in which direction I need to go. Is something like this available at all?


Only thing I'd like when a selected object is out of the field, an arrow should point to the object like in Starmap HD which I used before on the iPad.


This is the OP here. Still loving SS (even upgraded to Pro version) and still star-hopping using SS as my only reference tool at the telescope. I still bring my printed atlas to the field, but it mostly stays in the car as backup support in case of a catastrophic iPhone death or failure!

Anyway, I am so happy to report that I finally figured out a solution to the one problem I had - the need for an arrow to assist me in star-hopping to my target. I knew the Gyro mode had something like this built in, but I didn't think it applied to me because I never use Gyro mode and point the phone up at the sky. I was playing around with Gyro mode, and while I don't think this is the intent of the Gyro mode, it works for me. Here is what I do:

1. Use "Search" function to find my target object.

2. Hit "Center" to select and center the object in the main screen.

3. Hit the "Gyro" button on the toolbar. The stars and image will shift erratically.

4. Hit "Center" to bring up a tracking arrow. The stars and image will still shift erratically.

5. Tap or Swipe the screen to stop the erratic shifting. Now you should be in the regular star chart mode, but with a green arrow pointing towards your target object!

6. Zoom out, if needed, to orient yourself and find a guide star from which to begin your star-hop. If your arrow disappears, you may have panned too close to your target object, and SS thinks you arrived at your object. If so, go back to step 3.

7. Follow the green arrow from your guide star to your target.

For example, here is how I would find an object from a recent night, NGC 6572, which is kind of in no-man's land with no bright stars near it. My longest EP gives me a 1' TFOV, which I like to use to star-hop sometimes. So I bring up a 1' circle, search 6572, and center the object. Then I hit Gyro, Center, and swipe across the screen. Zoom out, find a suitable jumping off star, and zoom in on the star, in this case Beta Ophiuchi. I then point the scope to this star, rotate the phone so it matches my field, and the arrow tells me where to go!

I was at NEAF earlier this year, and one of the nice Southern Stars gentlemen told me a feature like this was in the works, but I'm so glad I found a workaround in the meantime.

Happy star-hopping!

#21 Alvin Huey

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 05:43 PM

Dumb question - I couldn't figure out.

How do you make north up? Like MegaStar...

#22 btschumy

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:01 PM

You can make the top of the chart be north by setting the coordinate display to "Equatorial". This is only available in Plus and Pro. You can change the coordinate display from the Coordinates settings panel, or from the left pop up panel that you get when tapping in the upper left of the chart (where the green center coodinates label is).

#23 Alvin Huey

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 10:21 PM

Thanks Bill

Btw it was Rich Jakiel that directed my interest into your app. So I got the pro version. Was looking for something to use at the field with one of my large telescopes that would be like megastar for te iPad. Now I need to find something to overlay my screen to dim it to reasonable levels so I can use the iPad under very dark skies. The stuff I got from astrogizmos does not work. Not sure if I would like the Rubylith stuff as it is somewhat opaque and does not cling on.

#24 doublediamond

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 12:04 AM

what about two layers of the astrogizmos stuff?

#25 btschumy

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 08:52 AM

I buy Grafix clear static cling vinyl that I use as a glue between the Rubylith and the screen. Peels off as a unit and works great.


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