For a detailed description of what Night Assistant does, please read the FAQ:
Version 09.02 incorporates a major change. Instead of showing stars as faint as 12.0mv, Night Assistant now can show stars down to 16mv. Just click the "faint" button on any chart, and *voila!* a sparkling of very faint stars now appear on the chart, after you set the magnitude limit box that pops up.
It also includes a zenith line. If you select this, your charts, wihch are oriented with north up, will also show a zenith line, running from the center of the finder chart to the edge in the direction of zenith. This will really help in orienting a field seen in an alt-az mounted telescope.
Also new is a finder chart for the North celestial pole. Just enter "NCP" in the "Make a Finder Chart of this Object" field and click "Make the chart".
I have split the data on the stars and the program, so you don't have to download the data each time. It also incorporates the latest (2012) version of both the GCSV variable star and WDSC catalogs. There are two data files, the bright stars and observing list, which are 0.8 gb or so, and the faint stars which take up 2.3 GB. Night Assistant will run fine with only the bright star database, but if you want stars fainter than 12mv, you'll need to download and install the faint star database.
Please see the user's manual:
for installation and usage details.
Enjoy, and clear skies!
Notes for programmers:
The program is written entirely in Java. Hopefully you'll be able to run this easily on a Windoze box, provided you have Java installed on it. Your author runs it on a Linux laptop.
There are no package statements in the classes. If you import the code into Eclipse or NetBeans, you'll probably have to set some up. They just make things more complex for me, as I use vim for editing and javac for compilation. If the code grows to greater than ~10,000 lines or so, then you'll probably need them, as names start colliding after that many lines of code.
I'm of the cryptic variable names, long comments school of programming. I think this leads to the most readable code. I also religiously keep everything to 80 columns. However! If you find the code unintelligible, please let me know.
I'm assuming that you know Swing. At least well enough to have set up a few simple apps on your own. I know, I know. Swing is about the *WORST* graphics development environment out there. Inner classes! Inconsistent visibility of components! Totally obscure "object oriented" design. Ugly. I agree. Except for all of the others! To paraphrase Aristotle, there is no "royal road" to graphics. You've just got to keep trying until it works. Avoid the O'Reilly Swing book, BTW. It's just a poorly done rehash of Sun's documentation. Sun's free, on line, documentation is pretty good.
I've found the Java Swing layout managers more than a little flaky. The Java developers discourage using "null" as a layout (all their effort, gone to waste!), but I've found it much easier to exactly specify where each component will live in a window.
Internally, all angles are stored and calculated in units of radians.
Why didn't you use a jar file, like all other Java developers?
Well... Gzip is a bit more efficient than zip. (Trivial!)
The real reason is that the program requires an ../observations and ../previous directory that it can write to. You'll have to create them. A jar file won't do this.
To Do: Lots of things!
Add an orbit calculation class and include planets, comets, asteroids and other denizins of the solar system.
Add a hardware driver to send commands to computer guided telescopes.
Improve this documentation.
Add more galaxies than those in the NGC/IC
Improve the star colors.