I'm happy to announce the broad release of the new detailed forecast interface, aka the “Turning down the lights” update. Thanks to those that have been providing valuable feedback.
Some background context to start. Since starting Astrospheric, I’ve focused on three major things:
- Unlock the data in Allan Rahill’s amazing astronomy forecasts
- The Canadian Meteorological Center produces a high resolution forecast covering North America. Clear Sky Chart paved the way for building forecasts off of Allan’s data, but even with thousands of locations covered it only represents a few percent of the data available.
- Astrospheric is the only service that lets you dynamically generate a forecast from Allan’s data anywhere within the forecast region. So if you’re more than 10km away from a Clear Sky Chart location, then more relevant data awaits you on Astrospheric.
- Use a modern map to display and browse the data
- Hour-by-hour forecast graphics are convenient but they can’t help you see the big picture. A quick glance at a map will show far more information than you could ever get from a simple point forecast.
- Keep it free and make the data accessible to everyone
- The data served on Astrospheric, and pretty much every weather website around, has already been paid for with our tax dollars. Although my time and server time aren’t free, there are more expensive hobbies I could have taken up. Also, please keep in mind that building Astrospheric is an after-work pastime for me, so dial your expectations accordingly.
Today’s update focuses on the Forecast
These types of graphics are sometimes referred to as a point forecast since they compile temporal weather data for a particular point on the globe into one simple to read graphic.
The Astrospheric forecast was originally designed for familiarity, but as more data has become available from the Canadian meteorological center, it makes sense to upgrade the visuals. There has also been feedback to darken the overall appearance to make it easier on the eyes and offer up different weather variables.
Functionally the new forecast behaves like the old; tapping anywhere on it will update the detailed legend and the cloud map above. This tight coupling with map data is crucial for astronomers since a point forecast alone will never be accurate enough. Only a map can give you the spatial understanding of weather trends. This principle is the reason Astrospheric continues to be picked up by professional and amature astronomers/astrophotographers as well as observatories across the continent.
Here are the details
- The sky forecast is unchanged. The darker the blue the better the conditions.
- The sun and moon graphic has been upgraded to show altitude above or below the horizon
- The dashed line below the horizon indicates -18 degrees. When the sun has moved lower than this line we've left astronomical twilight and entered night.
- Wind speed now comes with directional data so you'll know which direction the wind is forecasted to blow. This is helpful in thinking about wind cover before setting up your scope.
- The circle can be thought of as a compass with the small triangle pointing in the direction the wind is blowing. A triangle pointed up indicates a wind blowing from the south to the north. In the example below, the wind is heading towards the Southeast.
- The circle's color indicates the wind speed. Tapping on any part of the hour will show the actual wind speed in the legend.
- Originally I tried an actual wind barb, but without making the forecast exceptionally large the data became difficult to read.
- Temperature is now represented as a line graph instead of colored squares. This makes it far easier to know what the temperature will be and see the trend over time.
- Humidity has been replaced with dew point temperature. Dew Point temperature offers a more tangible way to understand at what point dew will start forming. The closer the Dew Point and actual temperature are, the higher the humidity.
Of course these updates also come with map data updates as well. Temperature and Wind can now be visualized on the map.
Instead of mapping dew point temperature, I’m instead mapping dew point depression. This is the difference between the temperature and the dew point (Temperature - Dew Point). Again, it’s nearly the same as relative humidity (in fact I’m using a humidity color enhancement on the data), but in more tangible units. The smaller the depression, the higher the humidity and chance for dew.
Along with the changes above come a set of bug fixes and performance improvements, mostly focused on the Android app. More perf fixes will come in the future since I’m not yet happy with the experience on Android as compared to iOS or the browser.
In addition to the changes above, the website is getting extra attention
- Astrospheric will force a secure connection by default. This shouldn’t require any change in behavior on your part, but you may notice the the full URL is https://www.astrospheric.com (notice the ‘s’ after “http”). Technically you don’t need to update any bookmarks, but the page will load faster if you do.
- I’m making changes to increase the amount of data available in one view. For now this means that Favorites will be shown permanently on the side of the forecast. This allows for a really quick one-stop-shop to view the cloud conditions at all of your favorite locations.
Thanks again for using Astrospheric and providing valuable feedback. Together we’re building the most advanced astronomy weather service available with lots of great updates still to come.