Friday, February 1, 2008
Looking for the perfect star atlas
During the past few years I tried out several atlases just to find out that the perfect atlas doesn't exist. Either the scaling is too small or too large or the format doesn't satisfy. The map's limiting magnitude rarely matches my finding equipment or the object selection doesn't fit my needs.
I also tried free planetarium software such as HNSKY or Cartes Du Ciel . The main problem here is that I have to create a map for each observation which is a time consuming task while these programs are not specialized in producing printed output.
Taki's Star Atlas and astromist
I finally sticked with Taki's 8.5 Magnitude Star Atlas. It covers the complete sky, it offers a good scaling, it comes in a handy A4-Format and it's free! After I added constellation figures using green ink (under red light, constellations appear grey at night.), these maps are very useful in the field.
For planets and ephemeris calculations, I use Astromist. This is a fine astronomical software for handhelds. It has an observer log allowing me to save my astronomical drawings in the database - so they are available in the field in case I want to review an older sketch. I just love it!
But for me, Taki's maps still have some disadvantages: the 8.5 limiting magnitude is too little and some constellations are not positioned the way I like - e.g. the Cassiopeia "W" is split and printed on the pages: 13,14, 36 and 37. So I started to search for a method to create my own PDF maps.
I soon found myself digging into the exciting theory of cartography. I found an old software called StarMapStudio, I wrote some database conversion routines for it and asked the author for his future plans. He expressed his wish to discontinue the project and he transferred all StarMapStudio copyrights to me.
That is how my newest astronomical project (and this blog) started. The project will consist of 3 main tasks:
- Re-publish StarMapStudio 1.3 with a recent database.
- Create my own PDF atlas and share it with the community.
- Re-develop StarMapStudio 2.0 from scratch.
I will post any news about the project in this blog. Have fun and CS!