Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stellarium 0.10.6

Downloaded the new version of Stellarium last night. Sounded like there were a number of cool new features and plug-ins.

Installed it today. It seems to load up faster (still).

It's not a new feature (I learned) but I just never used it before: I'm very excited about the Satellites plug-in! It shows artificial satellites, their orbits, and names. It supports the common TLE data, updating via the internet, and manual entry. Updating can occur automatically shortly after you start the software. You can even search for a satellite. Very smart.

The ISS (Zarya) is already in the system, one can search for it, I tracked it, and it noted that it corresponded to a time predicted by Heavens Above. I don't however see it in the list... (Oops, there it is, after the Iridiums, alphabetical, duh...)

The brief satellite plug-in instruction page is helpful. However, the recommended keyboard shortcut to configure satellite add-on (Ctrl Shift z) does not work; the on-board help correctly notes it. Also, it is not explained anywhere what the colours mean: I've seen white, grey, green, brown, and blue satellites!

Satellites in Stellarium is very cool, I must say. I like how, if you turn all the satellites on, it reminds us how much gear is up there. How busy the sky is. I've often said to budding amateur astronomers, "Get used to seeing satellites..." I like how the orbit is pre-drawn so you can see it coming. This is going to be a great tool in the future when predicting fly-overs.

A plug-in that is new, this time, is the Solar System Editor. I love it! Finally, you can let the software add the appropriate data in the appropriate file to extend the list of asteroids and comets. So easy. I added the "new" comet P/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami. Compared to Seiichi Yoshida's web site. Bingo. I like how you can easily remove items too. You just need to remember to precede comet names, when searching, with "c/" or "p/" so to avoid getting asteroids.

I see the newest version of Stellarium includes a time-zone plug-in, for those who need to override the built-in settings. Sounds like a number of people will find this useful.

The ocular plug-in, which has been around for a couple of versions, is still as confusing as ever. Lost all my old configuration (other people have reported that too). Didn't seem to work for me at all at first, had to restart. Apparently, the big change, now, is that you can configure your own keys for the oculars. Sounds like a good idea, instead of cycling through them all—which I always thought was really strange. Except it is not at all clear how you do the binding! Author Timothy Reaves needs to seriously rethink this. He should hurry up and update the damned help and wiki web page too! Sheesh.

Getting decent frame rates, still. Although you can really bog it down with all the satellites on...

So, overall, some fantastic improvements.

1 comment:

SharminC said...

Very thorough review, helpful. Thanks.