Archive for December, 2010

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

This post contains information about Starry Night version 6.4.1. Click here to read our post on release version 6.4.2, which was available for downloading the morning of January 18, 2011.

Version 6.4.0 to 6.4.1 Update

January 12, 2011

I contacted Starry Night Support for a list of specific fixes/enhancements for versions 6.4.0 and 6.4.1, and they sent me this information on 12/28/2010. The support center informed me that users experiencing problems starting Starry Night after updating can manually delete their preferences file, which should allow them to start the software. They also believe they found the source of the 6.4.1 bug and intend fix it in the next update.

December 25, 2010

I fired up Starry Night Pro to write a quick post about Uranus this morning and saw there was a new version available: 6.4.1. I installed the update (previously at version 6.3.9) and used it immediately. No errors during installation, although I had to manually restart Starry Night after the update completed.

New features from version 6.4.0 to 6.4.1:

  • address some issues that arose with some OS X users and our new usage of OpenGL.

Note: Everything looks much the same in version 6.4.1 as in version 6.3.9, but I did have one problem. While going through the program features, Starry Night did unexpectedly terminate – can’t recall exactly what I was doing, but it gave an OpenGL error message before quitting.

Note 2: I believe the added Apollo missions (only available for the Pro and Pro Plus versions of Starry Night) were part of the Starry Night Apollo application, which is still listed (12-27-2010) as a free-standing product in the Starry Night store.

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Version 6.3.9 to 6.4.0 Update

December 25, 2010

New features from version 6.3.9 to 6.4.0:

  • A number of bug fixes, performance improvements, under the hood stuff.
  • Advanced Particle Galaxy Rendering
  • Hour Angle Lines
  • SkyView Link (Image Editor)
  • Argo Navis Support (OS X)
  • Up to 14 new panoramas (Pro Plus gets 14, Pro 9, enthusiast 5)
  • Minor updates to some db’s like meteor showers

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Preferences Files Locations

March 29, 2011

The preference file problem for Starry Night Pro users running Windows 7 has been repeatedly addressed since January, however Mr Bill of the Yahoo SN forum recently responded why a good solution to fix this issue is to use the Run as Admin solution:

“W7 defaults to running everything in NON-ADMIN mode even if you are the admin. All that is needed – if you are the administrator, which most people who have a single login are, is to right clk the file you want to run and select COMPATIBILITY then select RUN THIS PROGRAM AS ADMINISTRATOR. If it is an older version on SNP also select RUN THIS PROGRAM IN COMPATIBILITY MODE and set it for XP SP3 or whatever runs.”

Thank you for the clear details why this approach is needed, Mr. Bill.

January 17, 2011

If I ran Vista, I’d probably look for a .txt file in the “C:\Program Files\Starry Night <version>\” directory.

The support center informed me that the Preferences file locations for Windows are in different locations, depending on the version of Windows. They prefer that people needing help with the SN Preferences files for Windows contact them at www.starrynightsupport.com.

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January 7, 2011

I’ve received a couple of questions about the Preferences file location for Starry Night Pro and Pro Plus. I contacted their support center and this was their reply:

The Mac OSX Preferences are located at:

/Users/<Your Username>/Library/Preferences/Imaginova Canada/Prefs/

The “User State Prefs.txt” file is located in either the Pro or “Pro Plus” folder depending on which version you have.

IMPORTANT! If you can’t find the Prefs file, remember there are 3 potential Library directories:

  • ~/Library – for a specific user
  • /Library – for all users of the computer
  • /System/Library – for system-wide use

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Historical Data on All Version 6.x New Features:

December 25, 2010

All of the newest features in Starry Night version 6.x are:

  • Hour Angle Lines and Vernal Equinox Hour Angle Guide.
  • SkyView Link in Image Editor Downloads Thousands of New Images.
  • Advanced Particle Galaxy Rendering.
  • New minor planets and their moons have been added and updated.
  • Apollo Space Missions: trajectories of the Apollo spacecraft, full models and guided tours.
  • Distance Spheres can now be added to any solar system body with any radius and color.
  • Shadow Cones can be displayed to show the shadows of orbiting bodies.
  • The precessional path of the celestial poles can now be displayed.
  • The circumpolar region, based on your latitude, can now be displayed.
  • Event Finder: Appulse event searching alerts you when the Moon or the Pleiades is near bright planets.
  • Added up to 24 new horizon panoramas.
  • New update technology built directly into Starry Night. Will check for updates automatically if registered.
  • Animated trips between planets now use more visually appealing planet avoidance.
  • Tully database improved to allow for more galaxy types.
  • Saturn’s rings and ring shadows now draw even more precisely.
  • Universal Time can now be displayed and edited in the toolbar.
  • The value of DeltaT has been improved and can now be overridden by the user.
  • All planets now draw with softer edges.
  • Updated LiveSky links and images.
  • Thicker lines on high-DPI displays maintain visibility.
  • More Customer Support Features
  • Spaceship responsiveness dramatically improved.
  • Improved Space Mission rendering speeds.
  • Improved Find feature for multiple objects of same name.
  • Updated mythological descriptions for all 88 classical constellations

OS-specific improvements:

  • Argo Navis support for Mac OS X.
  • Smooth window fading (Win XP and Vista)
  • Transparent floating windows (Vista only)

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Uranus Facts:

  • Location: 7th planet from the sun
  • Size: 3rd largest planet in our solar system
  • Orbit: 19.22 AU
  • Orbital Period: 84.07 Julian Years *
  • Average Distance from Earth: 19.2 AUs *
  • Diameter: 4X that of earth
  • Discovered: 1781 by William Herschel
  • Atmosphere: hydrogen, helium, water, methane, ammonia
  • Interesting facts: the planetary axis of rotation is titled sideways (97 degrees), which is unique for a planet in our solar system; the first planet discovered by a telescope; visited by Voyager 2.
  • Total number of moons: 27 (Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia, Rosalind, Cupid, Belinda, Perdita, Puck, Mab, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, Francisco, Caliban, Stephano, Trinculo, Sycorax, Margaret, Prospero, Setebos, and Ferdinand)
  • Click here for Wolfram|Alpha data on Uranus

* = Courtesy of Wolfram Astronomy Assistant

So far I’ve covered three gas giant planets, and now I turn my eye (and software) to Uranus, one of the dimmest and least dense planets in the solar system.

Uranus is unique for several reasons. First, it is blue to blue-green in color, due to the methane content of the atmosphere. Second, Uranus is the only planet that is titled on it’s axis – slightly over 97 degrees. Third, Uranus was the first planet discovered with a telescope. Four, astronomers were able to use Uranus to determine where to look to find Neptune.

What to know what else is interesting about Uranus today, January 18, 2011? Today the New Horizons probe to Pluto is close to passing the orbital path of Uranus and continuing on its trek past Neptune and on to Pluto. Call me an astronomy geek, but I think that is cool.

Now lets get back to our planet of choice. Uranus has 27 odd satellites, and the closest of the 5 large moons is Miranda, so I took a quick trip to look at it. Rather plain, especially compared to some of Jupiter’s moons.

I like the quality of the images of both Uranus and Miranda in Starry Night Pro. They are so much nicer than the land telescope images we had before Voyager 2 made the long trek out to Uranus. I should add that earlier astronomy programs used Voyager 2 images of Uranus and other planets in the solar system, which really enhanced the experience of using the software.

I decided I’d like to see Uranus from Miranda’s surface (a nice feature of Starry Night), and it was a real treat. Uranus is fairly large and clearly visible from Miranda, as you might expect as it is a mere 130,000 km from Uranus.

Why this perspective from the surface of Miranda? Because Miranda has some canyons that are 20 km deep! Impressive. Miranda may be the smallest of the large Uranus satellites, but it’s proximity to Uranus could make it an interesting landing site for a future probe.

Fun, then it was time to look at Uranus and Miranda as they would be seen by an approaching spacecraft. I like how easy that was to setup in Starry Night Pro.

There are a lot of people without astronomy hardware or software, and those people can take advantage of Microsoft’s free WorldWideTelescope.org site to check out some nice digital images of Uranus, as well as the other planets of the solar system:

That’s it for now. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

– Mike

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Updates

6-24-2011 – Added Orbital Period, Average Distance from Earth information.

2-14-2011 – Added names of all moons.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I bought a first gen Apple TV when they were released. My unit has a 32 GB drive and I’ve enjoyed using it from the very start. I keep my favorite movies and songs on the unit itself, streaming other content as desired. In truth I am now far more likely to buy a movie if it comes with a digital copy, because the AppleTV is so convenient to use. If I have any negative, it is the problem trying to fast forward streamed content – I can easily do this with content stored on the Apple TV hard drive, but it doesn’t work well on streaming content. I’m sure the problem is that I use a 100 MB connection speed instead of a 1 GB connection, so I can’t really blame Apple for this shortcoming.

Overall I am very happy with the Apple TV and am considering buying one of the new second gen units for a different TV and stereo. I do wish the first gen USB port would allow me to attach an external drive, but that isn’t going to happen, based on the second gen of this product. The new Apple TV has a lot less local storage and instead it replies on streaming content from other sources.

Why talk about this now? Yesterday Apple released a press announcement that it expects Apple TV sales to top 1,000,000 units this week. That, in and of itself, is impressive as the first gen unit didn’t do well and some analysts predicted Apple would completely drop the product line.  I hope they have as much success with the Apple TV as they are with the iPad. I like mine and hope they are around a long time.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

SpaceX achieved a huge milestone in their pursuit of private industry space travel. This morning they launched their Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, which carried the Dragon spacecraft into a near earth orbit. The impressive fact about this accomplishment is not launching a rocket, but actually recovering the launched vehicle. SpaceX is the first commercial company to recover their payload, which splashed down in the ocean.

Click here to read the SpaceX company press release about today’s mission.

SpaceX hopes to use their rocket and spacecraft to provide supplies and personnel to the ISS after the NASA shuttles are retired. SpaceX is not alone in this venture – Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company has developed a spacecraft that potentially could access the ISS, although the main intent of the company seems more in line with providing rides for tourists.

Personally, I wish both companies nothing but success in their efforts. Both companies can offer low earth orbit services, freeing up NASA’s budget to go to other planets and asteroids, as well as undertake other long range unmanned exploration missions.