Ready for Sierra

Today we released Observatory 1.0.3. As announced in the previous blog post, it now includes Spotlight Importers for FITS and SBIG files. This means that, when choosing File ▸ Get Info (⌘I) for such files in the Finder, it will now display useful information like image dimensions, exposure time, detector temperature, right ascension, declination, etc. What’s more, you can now search for this information right from within the Finder itself!

Creating a new library has been tweaked slightly, such that you don’t need to provide a name for it until you explicitly save it. A small change, but with it comes support for the Tabs feature of macOS Sierra, the next major version of OS X macOS this fall.

Observatory with Tabs on macOS Sierra beta

There are disk space utilization optimizations, Virtual Observatory returns results faster, and Observatory now displays a notification whenever there’s an update on this Observatory Blog.

Loading and displaying images is up to 40% faster. This has steadily been improving over the last few releases as you can see in the graph below. The system-level support for RAW images is inherently slower than Observatory’s FITS handling, but there’s still room for further improvements.

Image Load Performance (Late 2013 MacBook Pro)

Aside from that, you’ll see several other improvements in Virtual Observatory, importing, the sidebar, and more. For all the little details, you can head here.

Spotlight

When you have Observatory installed on your Mac, you’ll notice that all your FITS and SBIG files suddenly are displayed with proper thumbnails instead of generic icons in the Finder. After selecting any of them, you only need to press Spacebar on your keyboard to see the full image.

It is a great feature, which also extends to the sheet presented when importing images into an Observatory library.

The next update of Observatory will deepen this kind of integration, by automatically extracting metadata from all your FITS and SBIG files, regardless of whether they are part of any Observatory library.

You can see the new metadata in the Finder by selecting one or more files and choosing File ▸ Get Info (⌘I).

Finder: Get Info (Observatory 1.0.3)

It includes bits like

  • Image dimensions
  • Telescope, focal length, detector and filter used for the observation
  • Exposure duration in seconds
  • Right ascension and declination of the target

As you can see from the next screenshot, this metadata also greatly enhances the FITS and SBIG image search capabilities of your system. And if your images contain WCS information, you can now even look for those within a specific area of the sky, right from your Finder!

Finder: Search (Observatory 1.0.3)

This is going to be a great update, with more optimizations and bug fixes, and it’s coming soon!

GPU Accelerated Computing

We’ve just released the latest version of Observatory.

First and foremost in this release is the addition of GPU Accelerated Computing. Until now, all computations performed by Observatory were done exclusively by the CPU. But with this release, it gained the ability to perform some intensive computations on the GPU instead. Depending on the hardware, this can result in a profound speedup of these computations.

For example, on a Late 2013 MacBook Pro, one operation in the star detector, used internally by Astrometric Matching and the Align adjustment, took 9 seconds to complete for a 16 megapixel image. In Observatory 1.0.2 this has been optimized to just 2 seconds. For comparison, the same operation takes 70 seconds in Mathematica 10. We didn’t stop there though: Now the same operation can also be executed on a GPU. With the discrete GPU of this computer, it now completes in less than 0.3 seconds!

General Preferences: Compute device

With the new “Compute Device” option in the General tab of Observatory’s Preferences window you can instruct it how to perform some of these intensive computations. Only supported compute devices are listed here. The GPU that is currently connected to your display is indicated with an icon next to its name.

If your computer has multiple GPUs, it is recommended to select one that is not connected to the display. For example, for the Late 2013 MacBook Pro, the integrated GPU typically is driving the display, while the idle discrete GPU can be put to great use for these kinds of computations.

And more, of course

That’s not to mention the good amount of general optimizations and maintenance this release packs in: Observatory is now smarter about when to load an image into memory, making selections in the browser faster, there’s more thumbnail caching behind the scenes, and it zaps a few bugs.

For the full set of release notes, you can head here.

Enjoy!

Go visit Hawaii

Check the Mac App Store for updates, because there’s something waiting for you.

With Observatory 1.0.1, released today, you can now also search and download 2MASS images as well as those of W. M. Keck Observatory’s NIRC2 instrument. The W. M. Keck Observatory is a two-telescope astronomical observatory at an elevation of 4,145 meters near the summit of Mauna Kea in the U.S. state of Hawaii. Both telescopes feature 10 m primary mirrors.

Check out the release notes for all the details.

Keck Observatory

Hello World!

Welcome to the very first post on the Observatory blog!

Observatory is an image management application specifically designed for astronomy. Every night, thousands of telescopes around the world are used to obtain deep images of the night sky. All those images need to be calibrated, stacked and processed; they are analyzed and shared, and they are stored. Over the years I have taken thousands upon thousands of images myself this way, all organized in a consistent folder/file structure. But what bothered me is that it became more and more difficult over time to find images in this structure. Sometimes I wished I had tagged them, sometimes I wished I could find all images that were taken of a specific area of the sky, and sometimes I even wished I had organized them in a completely different way.

That’s how the idea for Observatory was born. With Observatory you can finally organize your astronomical images in any way you want. It will even tag many of them automatically based on the image content. And it works all nondestructively. Your original images and folder structure will not be changed.

Observatory is not just an image organizer though. It will also give you direct access to the millions of research images of professional observatories around the world for example. And since Observatory is not limited to a single image library, you can create one for each of your research projects. You can read about that and many more features on the website.

What makes it even better is that, after a long period of testing, Observatory is now available on the Mac App Store. Go get it today!

What’s more is that 1.0.1 is already in the works. It will contain some exciting additions, but I’ll not spill the beans about those yet.