Updated software for Guide 7.0, part II

(18 Nov 1999) Importing DSS images via Internet: To do this, you must be running the 32-bit Windows version of Guide (Win 95 or 98 or NT), and you'll have to download this REALSKY.ZIP file (about 65 KBytes) and unZIP it in your Guide directory.

One you've done that, you can click on "Extras... RealSky Image", and Guide will start running its usual program to extract data from DSS/RealSky CD-ROMs. In the past, this program has worked by asking you to insert a specific DSS or RealSky CD-ROM, and extracting data from that disk.

This system has been extended a little. If you change the "drive letter" entry in the program to read '1', instead of the actual letter of your CD drive, the program will instead get the data via Internet, from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) DSS search interface. It will establish an Internet connection if one does not already exist, send a request for data to STScI, store the resulting data, and add it to the list of images to be shown in Guide. The result is identical to what you would have gotten with DSS CD-ROMs, except you don't have to swap disks.

You do have to wait a little longer than usual, however. The files will be sent compressed about 2:1. So if the GET_DSS program tells you that your image would consume 150 KBytes, about 75 KBytes of data will be sent via Internet. If your Web connection manages about 3 KBytes/second, it will take 25 seconds to get your image, plus some "overhead" time for each image request.

It would be nice if the same method could be applied to allow one to get images from other DSS servers, but I've not worked out how to do this yet. Using the same command structure as was used for STScI failed on all of them. I'd assume there is a way to do it; I've just not found it yet.

I'd also like to have the software give you a running progress report, and perhaps figure out some ways to improve compression (it currently relies on the GZip compression provided by GNU.)

(18 Nov 1999) Specify location as a city, ZIP or MPC code: In the past, specifying your observing viewpoint required entering latitude/longitude coordinates. There is now an alternative to this.

The "Location" dialog (available from the Settings menu, or by clicking on the lat/lon shown in the legend) has a new "Enter location name" button. Click it, and Guide will prompt you to enter the name of your new observing location. Example location names are:

London, Canada
london OH
london ohio

Each will reset your observing location to the given site. There are some important things to note, though.

  • If you're in eclipse/occultation/transit mode, the effect of this function is to have the chart recenter on the entered location. Therefore, the option appears as "Enter location name" under the "Go To" menu.
  • In specifying a city, it's a good idea to mention the country or US state as well. Entering "London" or "London, England" will cause Guide to center on London, England. To get at the other two Londons that Guide knows about, you have to specify either the London in Canada or the one in the US, in Ohio. (And in some cases, omitting the country name puts you someplace totally unexpected. "Sydney", for example, finds Sydney in Canada, not Australia.)
  • For US states, you can use either the full state name or the two-letter abbreviations. Use of uppercase or lowercase letters is always ignored, as are commas.
  • A five-digit number is assumed to be a ZIP (US postal) code. ("04008" is the ZIP code for Bowdoinham, Maine, headquarters for Project Pluto.) If possible, use ZIP codes instead of city names; the ZIP code will often give a more precise position than a city name would. (Unfortunately, not all ZIP codes are in the database.)
  • A three-digit number is assumed to be an MPC (Minor Planet Center) observatory code. ("675" is the MPC code for Palomar Mountain.)
  • You can also access this function by hitting Alt-\.
  • This new function is a good solution, though not a perfect one. A better solution would provide, for example, a drop-down list of the last four locations used; perhaps let you choose a city from a list box; and also allow an option to select your location by clicking on a map. And it would allow multiple lists ("major world cities", "US cities", "world observatories", etc.) But this solution is much better than no solution at all.

    Also: I'm aware that coverage of cities outside the US is not particularly good. (For example: the entire continent of Australia has just 22 locations.) Lists of locations (or postal codes) with lat/lon values for places outside the US would be very welcome. I've found one such list, but it contained about a million names, with no means to filter the less-important ones.

    (18 Nov 1999) Germany reunified on eclipse/occultation maps: Over the years, I've gotten occasional comments asking why Guide's eclipse charts show the old division between East and West Germany. This was part of the dataset used by Guide, "World Data Bank III" (WDB-III), which was created by the CIA back in the mid-1980s. I had no easy way to edit this data.

    However, I have (finally!) removed the border.

    Borders for the republics of the former Soviet Union are still missing. If done at all, this will wait for the next version of Guide.

    (18 Nov 1999) Miscellaneous minor changes: Users looking very closely at the new version of Guide would note that:

  • Jupiter and Saturn, when shown in 'bitmapped' mode, are correctly flattened now. (So are the other planets, but it is almost impossible to tell the difference.)
  • 'Colored stars' were originally colored using spectral type data (M=red, G=yellow, A=white, O=blue, with gradations in between). But spectral types are available for only about 300000 stars. In the current version, stars are instead colored using B-V magnitude data. Thanks to the Tycho catalog, this is available for about a million stars.
  • When you ask for a list of USNO A1.0 or A2.0 stars in a given area, an extra digit of precision is now given. This was done at the request of a Guide user in Germany. In truth, given the errors in Ax.0, this is at least one digit too many. A2.0 is more accurate than most earlier datasets, but not that much more accurate. But this extra digit allows you to recreate the data as it appeared in the original catalog.
  • In the past, certain lists of events (lunar phases, Jovian satellite events and GRS transits, etc.) were uniformly provided in UT. Now, Guide pays attention to the time zone you have set.
  • (14 Sep 1999) Better overlay editing tools: The overlay menu has been greatly rearranged and improved. No functions whatsoever have been added or removed; but the way you access those functions (that is, the user interface) is no longer embarrassing to me.

    The Overlays menu now contains only three options: "Edit an Overlay", "Toggle Overlays", and the "User Object menu". (I realize this last doesn't really belong under overlays! The "rearranging and improving" isn't over yet.)

    Click on "Edit an overlay", and Guide will give you a list of editable overlays, with the top line being "Create a new overlay". Select the "create" option, and Guide will ask for the new overlay's name and add it to the list.

    In either case, whether you are editing a new or existing overlay, a floating dialog box will appear with four radio buttons, with "Normal Mode", "Add Lines", "Add Circles", and "Add Text" options. "Normal Mode" is the one we're all accustomed to, where right-clicking selects an object, left-clicking pans, right-dragging measures the distance between two points, and left-dragging zooms in.

    The remaining three radio buttons switch to modes that will be familiar to those who have already made overlays, and are also described in the users manual. In "Add Lines" mode, you can right-drag to add lines to the overlay; in "Add Circles", you can right-drag to add circles to the overlay; and in "Add Text", you can right-click on a point on the chart and Guide will ask you to enter the text that should be added there.

    There is also a "Delete Overlay" button (which does lead to a message box asking you to confirm that you really want to delete the entire overlay!) and a color selection box.

    (14 Sep 1999) Guide/Charon link bug fixed: Several people found that the recently added link from Guide to Charon would fail in one way or another, frequently by causing a General Protection Fault (crash) or something similarly drastic. It took a while to find this, largely because it ran without problems on my machine. But I think this is fixed now. (Please let me know if it is not!)

    (4 Sep 1999) Link from Guide to Charon: Use of the Charon astrometry software has become somewhat more popular lately, both among those doing asteroid astrometry and those who just want to put their images of deep-sky objects into the background of Guide charts. The software has previously been somewhat "user-abusive"; this has been fixed.

    It's now possible to run Charon, from Guide, as follows.

  • Make sure you have the "current" version of both Guide and Charon. (If you're running an older version of Charon, it will ignore most of the new data that Guide now passes to it.)
  • Start up Guide, and go into the newly revised CCD dialogue. Set up your focal length in inches, and select your camera. It's not necessary to actually have the frame shown on screen; we're just collecting data about your camera and telescope right now.
  • Get the target object centered on-screen, and right-click on it, and click OK.
  • Hit Alt-C. Guide will ask you to select the image filename.
  • When you select the image name, Charon should start up. Take a look through everything to make sure it all came through right. NOTE: if the target was an asteroid or comet, Charon will show its name correctly. Otherwise, just the RA/dec from Guide are used, and the name is "(blank)". This isn't a problem. The object name is only used for making reports to the Minor Planet Center anyway.
  • Click on "Save Settings", and Charon will crunch away on the image and should match it successfully.
  • It's possible, though probably not a good idea, to skip some of the above steps. For example, if you're using an SBIG image in the ST4, ST5, ... ST8 format, you can skip the CCD dialogue; Charon will get the pixel size and focal length from the SBIG header. (FITS headers either lack this information, or store it in non-standard ways, or store it in a standard way with the wrong units. I've never seen one that did it "correctly.")

    (4 Sep 1999) CCD dialog revised: There are two changes here. The first, small one is that the CCD dialog box now has a "color" button. The second, more major, one has to do with how you set up the camera size.

    The old "height" and "width" controls have been thrown out. In their place is a drop-down box of assorted CCDs and an edit control for the focal length. So instead of computing the size and typing in the values you get, you choose a camera and focal length and Guide does the math, showing you the field and pixel sizes for reference.

    This has (mostly) pluses and a few small minuses. On the plus side, this method is easier to use for the 99+% of users who just happen to have a particular scope/CCD camera combo, and want to get it shown in Guide. If you pick an SBIG ST7, ST8, or ST9e camera, the guider chip is also shown. (This had already been done, but was counterintuitive and highly user-abusive.) I should mention that the exact placement of the ST9 chip is uncertain; I'm waiting for a reply from SBIG on this point. So far, I've just put it above the main chip in a reasonable place.

    On the minus side, if your chip/camera isn't listed, you're in a hard spot. You can e-mail me your chip/camera specs (pixel size in microns, number of pixels vertically and horizontally, name of the camera) and I'll add it in, e-mail the fix back to you, and make sure it's available to others in the future. Or you can edit the file CCDS.NAM and put it in yourself. I'd really prefer that you ask me to do it; then I can do it once, and everybody else can get the benefit of it.

    Basic chips are listed too, so you can just add a "generic KAF-0400 based camera", for example. And a "35-mm camera frame" is listed; this is treated as a single-pixel "CCD", 36000 microns wide by 24000 microns high (35mm film is really 36mm by 24mm.)

    Zoom in sufficiently far, and the pixel grid is added to the display.

    (4 Sep 1999) Revisions for animation and making ephemerides and trails: The basics of how animation, ephemerides, and trails work remains the same, but the user interface has been made less user-abusive, and maybe even user-friendly.

    The Animation menu now has merely three items: "Animation dialog", "Add a Trail", and "Make Ephemeris". Click on the first, and the Animation dialog appears; you'll notice that it now has a "Real Time" checkbox. This makes switching to and from real-time animation somewhat more straightforward than was previously the case.

    For the remaining two items, you must first set the date and time to that for the start (or end) of the trail or ephemeris; then right-click on the target object, and click OK. (If you don't right-click on a moving object, meaning one within the solar system, these two items will remain grayed out.)

    Click on "Add a Trail", and the following dialog box will appear.

    [ ]-- Add a Trail -------------,
    |                              |
    |    Step size:       _1 min_  |
    |  [X] Index marks on          |
    |    Index freq        ____5_  |
    |    Number of steps:  ___10_  |
    |                              |
    |  [ Add a Trail  ]  [ Color ] |
    |  [ Clear Trails ]  [Cancel ] |

    The workings of this dialog box are really fairly simple. You can change the step size and the number of steps used. You can tell Guide that index marks should be added to the trail; in the above case, they are added at a frequency of once every five steps. You can click on the color button to reset the color to be used for this trail, and when you have everything as you would wish it to be, you can click on "Add a Trail."

    As a convenience, this dialog box also has a "Clear Trails" button. You can simply right-click on a planet trail, then click the "delete" button. This also allows you to delete individual trails. But it may sometimes be useful to be able to delete all trails at once.

    Click on "Make Ephemeris", and the following dialog box will appear.

    [ ]-- Add a Trail -------------,
    |                              |
    |    Step size:       _1 min_  |
    |    Number of steps:  ___10_  |
    |                              |
    |  [ Options... ]              |
    |  [     OK     ]    [Cancel ] |

    As with the "Add a Trail" dialog, you can set the number of steps and the step size. Click on "Options", and you get a long list of items that can be provided in an ephemeris, and can select which of them you want included. (This option used to be directly in the Animation menu, under "Ephemeris items".)

    (4 Sep 1999) Outer planet satellites: Guide now shows the eight outer Jovian satellites (J6 Himalia through J13 Leda), and Caliban and Sycorax (two outer satellites of Uranus, found in 1997.) For dates between 1 January 1994 and 1 January 2010, Phoebe (S9, outermost satellite of Saturn) and Nereid (N2, outermost satellite of Neptune) are also shown. The 'Go To Planet' and 'Location' dialogues have been extended to include all of these.

    Some time ago, Ross Shuart sent me data from a numerical integration for the outer Jovians, covering the period JD 2412000.5 = 25 Sep 1891 through JD 2492000.5 = 7 Oct 2110. (VALID POSITIONS ARE NOT AVAILABLE OUTSIDE THIS RANGE. The accuracy within this range is a little uncertain, but is considerably better than a second of arc.) The ephemerides he generated arrived in time to be put on the Guide 7.0 CDs; they can be found in the JSATS directory, along with C/C++ source code written by Ross to access them.

    Ross is now working on similar data for the other four outer satellites. In the meantime, Guide can still display them using data from the JPL 'Horizons' system. The only real drawback to this is that the Horizons data doesn't give us a lot of range; but that data will at least keep things going until Ross generates integrations from his code (probably fairly soon).

    The result has both practical and "fun/educational" uses. On the practical side, it will make it quite easy to plan observations of these objects. The Jovians range in brightness from J6, at mag 14.8, down to J13, a "challenge object" at mag 20. They are really quite feasible CCD targets, or visual targets for larger scopes; the problem has always been actually finding them. (Imaging an outer Uranian, down around mag 22, is more troublesome. But at least one Guide user has done it.)

    On the educational side, it can be interesting to set one of these objects as your "home planet", and observe the inner moons from that viewpoint. J8 (Pasiphae) makes an especially good viewpoint; it has the greatest distance from Jupiter and the largest eccentricity of any of the satellites, and its orbit is inclined enough so that you don't just get the "edge on" view we're all accustomed to. (Of course, you also get a full set of phases, something else we don't get to see from Earth.) Over the course of its two-year orbit, Jupiter appears to grow and shrink by about 2.5 times.

    Sycorax makes an interesting viewpoint for two reasons. First, its eccentricity of .51 causes Uranus to change in size by a factor of three over the course of its 3.53 year orbit. And its orbit is almost at a 90 degree inclination to the equator of Uranus; when it is closest to Uranus, it is almost directly over the north pole of that planet; at "apouranus", it is almost directly over the south pole.

    At some point, some of the inner satellites in near-circular orbits, such as Amalthea (a.k.a. "Barnard's Moon" or J5) will be added. I have a pretty good idea as to how to do this. But these are not priorities.

    Helpful hint: I am certain that some people will regard the outer satellites as nuisances, rather than as a pleasant feature. If you want to turn them off, but leave Galilean satellites alone, right-click on any natural satellite or planet, and click on "Display". Click on "Fixed" (meaning you want a magnitude limit that does not vary as you zoom in or out) and set a mag limit of 14. The brightest of the new satellites, J6 (Himalia), is never brighter than about mag 14.5 as seen from Earth.

    A final note: I am indeed aware that three new possible satellites of Uranus have just been discovered. (Click here for the discovery announcement for the first two. There is an update to the first two and announcement of the third here.) I thought I might be able to fit the observations in FIND_ORB, and generate a file so these objects could be shown in Guide. This will definitely be possible once a longer arc is available. The trouble is that the arc of observation for all three objects is so short right now that FIND_ORB doesn't think any of them are uranocentric; it finds perfectly reasonable Centaur orbits for all of them. Maybe in a month or so, I'll be able to add these objects.

    (4 Sep 1999) New way to sync the LX200: Previously, when you had Guide hooked up to an LX200, you could do a "sync" command in much the same manner as if you were using the LX200 keypad. You would tell the LX200 to slew to (say) Antares. Then you would fine-tune the position of the scope to really be on Antares, using the arrow keys (either on the keypad or on the Scope Pad in Guide.) Once you had Antares centered, you would click "Add Alignment Star" in the Scope Pad (or the "Sync" button on the LX200 keypad.)

    It's pretty obvious that Meade assumed this would be the usual way to correct scope errors. And for visual use, where one is standing right next to the scope, it does make a lot of sense. But several people, Jim Roe and John Anderson chief among them, have pointed out that it does not make sense when you're imaging with a CCD. To add insult to injury, it appears this is actually an area where Software Bisque's TheSky may do a better job than Guide!

    I have borrowed ideas from the competition before (mostly from SkyMap Pro), and I have done so again in this case. The new way to sync the LX200 is as follows:

    You would still tell the LX200 to slew to (say) Antares. But when you get there, you do not fine-tune the scope; you fine-tune Guide instead. If you're CCD imaging, you take a quick exposure and match star patterns in the image to those on screen in Guide. (This obviously argues for a closer integration with Charon, by the way.) You then move the chart in Guide match what is seen in the CCD, rather than the other way around.

    Once done, click on "Sync".

    If you would prefer to have the synching work in the "original" manner, you should use a text editor to add the following line to GUIDE.DAT:


    I think most people will be perfectly happy with the "new" way. For visual use when you're standing next to the scope, the "original" way may still have its appeal... but in that case, you're apt to use the hand controller anyway.

    (4 Sep 1999) Easier way to enter a user-added horizon: For about a year, it has been possible to add a user-defined horizon to Guide. A default "example" horizon is provided with the program, showing how the horizon is defined and giving some pre-built sample objects to put on it (trees, houses, etc.) (This information is in the file HORIZON.DAT, in your Guide directory.)

    This made it very easy to add objects on the horizon, but not really easy to say: "The horizon at my viewing site is at five degrees altitude at azimuth 25; rises to 6.5 degrees at azimuth 30; lowers to 4 degrees at azimuth 45", and so on. You could do it, and many people have. They measured the altitude at the horizon by noticing when stars rose and set, or by using a compass, or (in several cases) by using an LX200. But entering the data into HORIZON.DAT required quite a bit of work.

    The current version fixes this, and also allows for separate horizons on other planets. For example, the lunar horizon is defined in HORIZO10.DAT and OBJECT10.DAT . (The Martian horizon would be in HORIZO04.DAT, the Mercurian horizon in HORIZO01.DAT, and so on.) At present, OBJECT10.DAT shows a flag, a rocket, and an example and discussion of how this new horizon feature is used.

    (4 Sep 1999) New toolbar bitmaps: Since Guide 7.0 came out, there have been a slew of new features, but no way provided to add new toolbar buttons for them. (Some people have suggested supplying a new TOOLBAR.DAT file; the problem is that when this is done, you lose all your toolbar settings.)

    The issue came up again with the new Chinese version of Guide. Each "language" toolbar button shows a flag for a country (French flag for French, British flag for English, etc.), and David Wu supplied a bitmap for the Taiwanese flag. (There may also soon be an Israeli flag, for Hebrew.) I decided I wanted a way to add such buttons without destroying existing settings, and to put them in "logical" parts of the toolbar. (The "Chinese" toolbar button, for example, should appear with the other language buttons.)

    The present version does exactly this. So far, not many buttons have been added. There are eight new "pan" buttons, plus buttons to increase and decrease contrast, and to increase and decrease brightness (these correspond to the Alt-Arrow keys introduced with the previous version posted.) There were buttons to "go to" all the planets except Earth; there is now a button to do that, too, and the aforementioned Taiwanese flag bitmap was added for Chinese. New buttons will be added as time allows.

    (4 Sep 1999) "Standard" style zoom box: Sam Herchak pointed out that the way you zoom in on charts in Guide is non-standard. Most programs require you to click on one edge of a rectangle, drag the mouse to the other edge of the rectangle, and will then zoom in. Guide, however, requires you to click on the center of the rectangle, then drag out to define the size of the rectangle.

    Those wishing to have "standard" zooming in Guide can now get it by adding the following line to GUIDE.DAT :


    Personally, I think the current, non-standard method is a much more intelligent, intuitive, and powerful interface. The only real drawback to it is that it's not "standard". I'll be interested in the feedback I get on this. If I hear a lot of comments such as "you really should junk your idiosyncratic, non-standard zoom and do things just like everybody else", then I'll consider making the "standard" zoom box the default.

    (31 Jul 1999, updated 4 Sep 1999) New controls over most on-screen objects: When you click to toggle a user-added (.TDF) dataset, or an overlay, you now get a dialog box that looks like this:

    [ ]--- Quasars ----------------[X]
    |  ( ) On           [X] Labels   |
    |  ( ) Off                       |
    |  (o) Auto                      |
    |  ( ) Fixed                     |
    |                                |
    |  Magnitude limit:  __14.0_     |
    |                                |
    |  Show at: __1_ - _180_         |
    |                                |
    | [ Options...]    [ Color ]     |
    |                                |
    |  [  OK  ]       [ Cancel  ]    |

    Also, when you right-click on an object on-screen, the resulting short "information" box will include a "Display" button, that also leads to this type of box.

    All the options down to "Magnitude limit" work like the similar options in the "Data Shown" menu. You can turn a dataset On or Off, so that either everything is shown or nothing is shown. You can set 'Fixed' and have everything shown down to the magnitude limit, and that limit stays constant as you zoom in or out. 'Auto' does the same thing, except that Guide will adjust the magnitude limit as the field of view changes. And you can turn labels on or off and adjust the color used to display that class of object.

    The fact that you can simply right-click on an object on-screen to control its display can be extremely useful. You'll still need to use menu options such as "Ticks, Grids, etc.", "Toggle user-added datasets", and "Toggle overlays" to get these items to appear on-screen. But once on-screen, the simplest way to change magnitude limits or labelling or colors will usually be to just right-click on the object in question.

    In some cases, certain options will be grayed out. For example, turn a dataset on or off, and the magnitude limit doesn't matter anymore and is grayed out. Some user-added datasets (such as the "Millennium Star Atlas pages", "RealSky North plates", and so on) don't have any magnitudes, and the 'Auto' and 'Fixed' options are grayed; magnitude limits don't make much sense for, say, constellation borders either. Some datasets don't have labels, and that option is therefore grayed out.

    The "Show at A to B degrees" option is available for overlays and user-added datasets, and defaults to 0-180: that is, Guide will show this dataset no matter what field of view you have. But if you wish, you can tell Guide that (for example) RealSky plates only make sense when the field of view is greater than one degree, but they get cluttered-looking at greater than 90 degrees.

    The "Options..." button is usually grayed out, but not always. It leads to a dialog box with dataset-specific options. For example, if you right-click on Mars and then click "Display" in the resulting dialog, the "Options" button would lead you to this dialog:

    [ ]-- Planets ----------------[X]
    |                               |
    |  [X] Full precision           |
    |  [ ] Label by name            |
    |                               |
    |  Mars:                        |
    |   [X] Show features           |
    |   [X] Label features          |
    |   [ ] Lat/lon grid            |
    |       __30_ x __30_ degrees   |
    |                               |
    |   ( ) Shaded                  |
    |   ( ) Line figure             |
    |   (o) Bitmap #1               |
    |   ( ) Bitmap #2               |
    |   ( ) Bitmap #3               |
    |                               |
    |  Contrast:   [       *    ]   |
    |  Brightness: [  *         ]   |
    |                               |
    |     [ OK ]   [ Cancel ]       |

    Similarly, the "Options" button for asteroids provides controls over the various ways asteroids are labelled, lets you switch to the MPCORB database, or import MPC elements, or set the length of the line of variation.

    The dialogue you get when you click on "Display" will not always look like the one for objects in user-added datasets. For ticks, grids, side labels, and hatches, you get a dialogue of spacing and coordinate systems, plus the color and "on/off" switch. For some objects, such as the border, all you can do is turn it on or off and reset the color; everything else is grayed out. For the CCD frame, you get the (newly revised) CCD dialogue. But the general principle of "to change the way an object is displayed, right-click on it and click 'display'" now covers almost everything shown in Guide.

    (31 Jul 1999) "Hour angle" scopes fixed: Gordon Garradd and Steve Lee noticed that, if you use Guide with telescope encoders that read the hour angle and declination of the scope, Guide works correctly... except that it shows the Earth rotating backwards, and the little red scope indicator drifts west when it ought to drift to the east. This is fixed now.

    (31 Jul 1999) "Long format" for the LX-200: If LX-200 control has been working for you correctly all along, then this new feature will not affect you. If you've had problems with the scope slewing oddly, or not slewing at all, read on:

    Normally, the LX-200 returns an RA/dec with a precision of .1 minute in RA (1.5 arcminutes at the equator!) and of 1 arcminute in declination. The data it sends looks like this:

    RA: 05:47.8
    dec: +45*59

    These are "short format" commands. But some scopes are set up to work at a precision of 1 second in RA (15 arcseconds at the equator) and of 1 second in declination, and return data like this:

    RA: 05:47:45
    dec: +45*59:45

    If you click on "Slew Guide" in the Scope Pad, Guide will now look at the data returned by the scope and find out if it uses long-format commands. If it does, then Guide will use them for all LX-200 commands.

    (31 Jul 1999) Hotkey for solar eclipses: Normally, you find the solar eclipse nearest the current date by right-clicking on the Sun, then right-clicking on the Moon, then telling Guide to "show eclipse".

    Now, you can just hit ':'. The eclipse feature in Guide can show an immense variety of events, such as asteroid occultations of stars or the occultation of Ganymede by Venus in 2065 and so forth; but it turns out that most people just use it for solar eclipses anyway, and Frank Leiter suggested that having solar eclipses be easily accessible would be pleasant.

    (31 Jul 1999) Hotkeys for contrast adjustment: If you have just right-clicked on a RealSky image, or an image added using Charon, or on a planet or planet feature, you can then use the following four hotkeys to adjust the contrast on that object:

    Alt-Up to raise the brightess
    Alt-Down to lower the brightness
    Alt-Right to increase contrast
    Alt-Left to decrease contrast

    (There are also new toolbar buttons for these four functions.)

    Note that the 'up', 'down', etc. refers to the four separate arrow keys, not to the keys on the numeric keypad.

    By the way: I realize it would be better if you could right-click on a RealSky image, and get a "Display" button, which would include (among other things) two scroll bars for contrast and brightness. The above is a temporary solution only.

    (31 Jul 1999) Abbreviated menus: I like to keep a lot of toolbar buttons on, but the result sometimes wraps around to the next line, eating into the chart real estate. To evade this, there is a new "max menu length" option in the Toolbar dialog. This defaults to 99. Set it to, say, 3, and the text for menu items will be cut down to three letters apiece, freeing up a lot of space for buttons. If you've used Guide long enough that you can tolerate seeing "Set" instead of "Settings", or "Ext" in place of "Extras", this may be a very good thing.

    (31 Jul 1999) Magellan II control: Paolo Torricelli has tested Guide with the Meade Magellan II, and found out that Guide has actually been able to control the Magellan II all along. It turns out that the Magellan II is really LX-200 compatible. There are two differences: the 'slew scope' command won't work (logically enough) and the Magellan II runs at 300 baud. (The LX-200 runs at 9600 baud.)

    Because of this difference, you do have to edit the file STARTUP.MAR and look for this line:

    49 lx delay 5 100 9600

    The actual numbers may be different on your machine, except for the '9600' at the end. Change this to '300', and Guide should work properly with your Magellan II.

    (31 Jul 1999) Handling of altitudes above planets: In the past, you could get a viewpoint from a geostationary satellite in Guide quite easily. You would set your lat/lon to be on the equator at the longitude of the satellite, and would tell Guide that your altitude was 35800 kilometers (approximate altitude above ground level of a geostationary satellite). There was but one hitch: look back at the earth, and it would not be shown, because Guide would never show your "home planet".

    This has been corrected. As long as you're at least one planet radius above the planet's surface (two planet radii from its center), Guide will draw that planet, so you can (for example) see the Earth from geostationary orbit, or from any of the five Earth-Moon Lagrangian points.

    There is a slight problem, in that the bitmapped features are not drawn in a perspective-correct manner. The result is that, for distances close to that one-radius limit, the bitmapped features won't quite match up with the vector data (for the earth, continents) and lat/lon grids. The vector data and grids will, correctly, show you that much less than half the earth is visible from a 6380-km altitude. But the bitmapped image will still show you half the earth.

    If I figure out a way around this, it should allow for "close up" views, such as from a low-earth (or low-other-planet) orbiting satellite or from close fly-bys.

    (31 Jul 1999) New "large toolbar" buttons: I've received still more large versions of some of the toolbar buttons. (A reminder: you can switch from the usual, small buttons to "large" buttons by checking a box in the Toolbar dialog, under Settings.)

    You can click here to get the current large toolbar buttons (about 77 KBytes). Thanks go to Bill Anderson, Steve O'Leary, and Andrea Pelloni for these updates.

    (10 Jul 1999) "Sunspots", more planet features: Previously, the sorts of features supported for planets were limited to points and craters. Guide has been extended to allow display of filled areas, lines, and symbols on planets; to see this, get the current version of Guide and download the new "planet extras" file (about 230 KBytes).

    If you then zoom in on the Sun, right-click on it and choose "Display", and turn "features" on, you will see some small black flecks on the sun. "Sunspots" is given in quotation marks, since the objects shown here do not match up with any real, observed objects; they are more in the nature of an "artist's rendition". (For example: they all rotate at the same rate, even though the Sun actually rotates about once every 25.38 days at the equator and once every 36 degrees near the poles.)

    If you set your home planet to be someplace other than the earth, then look at the earth and turn "features" on for it, you will see continents and political boundaries outlined.

    Jupiter now has "features" (a few belts and the Great Red Spot). Mars has some newly-added features. Mercury, Venus, the Galilean moons, and several moons of Saturn now have features (none of them did before this.) The Moon has a few mountains, and symbols showing where Lunik, Surveyor, Ranger, and Apollo missions landed. And if you look at PLANET10.NOT, you'll see that adding "notes" for planet features is fairly easy to do.

    (10 Jul 1999) Much better planet "note" data: The JPL 'Horizons' system provides, among other things, an excellent set of basic planetary data such as mass, density, orbital parameters, escape velocity, atmospheric composition, and so forth. Chris Wolfe has edited this information and put it into the .NOT format used by Guide.

    As a result, when you click on a planet or satellite in Guide and ask for "more info", all this data will be appended to the usual information about position, magnitude, and so on.

    (10 Jul 1999) Date conversions to the Chinese calendar in 'Quick Info': Since early 1999, Guide has shown the currently-set date, in several calendrical systems, at the end of 'Quick Info'. There has also been a thorough discussion of the Chinese calendar, with C/C++ source code on this Web site. However, Guide has not actually shown dates from this calendar.

    But since Guide recently has been partially translated into Chinese, it seemed that it would be well if the Chinese calendar were supported. If you download the Chinese file (about 32 KBytes), then when you click on "Quick Info", Guide will now list this calendar.

    (10 Jul 1999) More miscellaneous small changes: Four very minor changes appear in this release: a bug fix for an error in the rotation of Venus; an improvement when you right-click on planet features (lunar craters and such); a rearrangement of the twilight data in 'Quick Info'; and better better handling for finding PK (planetary nebula) objects.

    Venus rotation bug: I did some testing, and realized that Guide showed Venus rotating in the wrong direction. I fixed this, and compared the results for the central meridian to those on the JPL "Horizons" ephemeris generation site to verify this. (Venus is somewhat odd in that it rotates "backwards" at roughly the same rate it orbits the Sun. But if you leave out a negative sign, it rotates forward at roughly the same rate it orbits the Sun.)

    Clicking on planet features: When you click on a planet feature, Guide now offers a "Display" button in the dialog box, just as if you had clicked on the planet itself.

    Twilight data in 'Quick Info': When you asked Guide for 'Quick Info' (or clicked on the Sun and asked for 'more info'), the data about twilights used to look like this:

    Civil twilight begins  1:03 GMT (UT)
    Nautical twilight begins  1:50 GMT (UT)
    Astronomical twilight begins  2:52 GMT (UT)
    Astronomical twilight ends  6:31 GMT (UT)
    Nautical twilight ends  7:33 GMT (UT)
    Civil twilight ends  8:20 GMT (UT)

    The order has confused a lot of people. It used to be the opposite of the current order, and nobody liked that, either.

    To avoid the issue of whether twilight "begins" or "ends" in the evening, the data now is shown as follows:

                         Evening  Morning
    Civil twilight         1:03    8:20   GMT (UT)
    Nautical twilight      1:50    7:33   GMT (UT)
    Astronomical twilight  2:52    6:31   GMT (UT)

    Improvement for finding PK (planetary nebula) objects: In the past, when using the "Go To... Planetary... PK" option to find planetary nebulae listed in the Perek-Kohoutek (Strasbourg) catalogue, you had to enter an old-style designator. For example: NGC 5189 originally received the designation 307-03.1, but has the new-style designation 307.2-03.4. Guide insisted that you enter the old-style designation to find this object, but then shows new-style designation when labelling this object. ("More Info" would then give you all the designations.) The current version will accept input in either style. It will also accept most (but not all!) of the odd designations such as "Sa 2-230", "EGB 5", "K1-10", and so on.

    List of improvements continues here

    Notes for the translators:

  • In the past, hotkeys in a STRINGS.* file were defined by putting a single '&' in front of the hotkey. For example, '&File' in line 955 of STRINGS.DAT tells Guide that Alt-F leads to the File menu.
  • The new option for hotkeys means that, in some cases, two '&'s are provided. For example, in the Czech example mentioned above, the lines in STRINGS.DAJ look like this:

    So&ubor &F
    &Jdi na .. <1>&Goto<1>
    &Tisk    <1>&Print<1>
    Kone&c   <1>E&xit<1>

    The new "Shift-F3" hotkey (Ctrl-6 in DOS Guide) simply tells Guide to toggle between use of the first '&', and use of the second.

    Text with only one '&' are treated exactly as they were before. If there are two '&'s, the hotkey toggles from one to the other. The use of '<1>' is optional; if there is a pair of these in the line in question, Guide will omit the text between them if the first '&' is in use. This helps because, if the first ampersand is in use, there's usually a chunk of English text that really ought to be omitted. For example, the above four lines would toggle from

    Soubor F
    Jdi na .. Goto
    Tisk    Print
    Konec   Exit


    Jdi na...
    So far, I've simply added a few examples in each European-alphabet STRINGS file. (I am pretty sure this will work in Japanese, Chinese, and Russian, but this has to be tested.)

  • In creating the Czech version, Jan Manek found that Guide was assuming text would be in the DOS character set. This has been revised. Anyone adding a new language to Guide should now be able to use the Windows character set for that language.
  • (20 Dec 1999) As you will see, about nine new lines have been added to the end of the STRINGS files to support the new satellite features. Also, a few paragraphs were added to EHELPEXT.DAT to describe the format of the satellite pass data.