Observatory 1.4 with Dark Mode is out

I flipped some switches today and Observatory 1.4 was released to the universe. You might remember that last month macOS was updated, which includes a neat new feature known as Dark Mode.

Dark Mode is now fully supported by Observatory on macOS 10.14 Mojave. It even works on macOS 10.11–10.13, but there it only affects the appearance of the Library window. In the new Appearance preference pick System to follow the system setting, or choose either Dark or Light to override it.

I think Observatory looks pretty good in Dark Mode.

We’ve also packed a bunch of little changes and bug fixes in there. See the release notes for the complete list.


TMO Background Mode Interview

the Mac Observer

The Mac Observer Background Mode podcast just aired an interview with me. John and I talk about my early fascination with astronomy, programming, and of course about Observatory.

TMO Background Mode Interview with macOS Software Developer Sander Berents

Background Mode is published every Monday afternoon at The Mac Observer. Please subscribe to the podcast, or visit the site for its archive of fascinating interviews with Apple developers, tech industry executives, scientists, researchers, artists, authors and journalists.

“Plate Solving in Observatory is AWESOME! And so simple!”

Mike Weasner of Cassiopeia Observatory just published a great review of Observatory. He’s using it now for his Extragalactic Supernova Project, to align and “blink” images, and for his Cassiopeia Observatory reports. Go visit his website to read the full review (part 1, part 2) and to read the many other reviews, reports and history of Cassiopeia Observatory.

A few extra notes:

  1. Observatory uses the standard state restoration mechanism of macOS. In your System Preferences there’s an option “Close windows when quitting an app”. Uncheck it, and Observatory will automatically reopen the last libraries upon launch. If you have “Ask to keep changes when closing documents” unchecked, it will even reopen libraries you didn’t save yet.

  2. Not being able to apply adjustments to stacks is indeed a current limitation in Observatory and something we want to change in a future update. However, you don’t need to export/import a stack image for adding adjustments. Just take a snapshot of the stack by choosing Image ▸ New ▸ Master. That will create an exact copy of the stack’s current state, and you can apply adjustments to it.

  3. SkySafari typically launches with your current time, and if the object you are viewing in Observatory is not currently visible, selecting Image ▸ Show Sky Chart will display an area in the blue sky or below the horizon. In SkySafari’s Horizon panel, disable “Show Daylight” and set “Show Horizon & Sky as Transparent With Line”. That will solve this issue.

Thank you Mike for the review!

Observatory 1.3.1

We’ve just released Observatory 1.3.1 on the Mac App Store, an update focused on bug fixes.

It contains photometry enhancements and resolves a problem with the GCVS labels and tags for a few constellations.

In addition, we’ve added a section in the documentation about expert preferences in Observatory. These are obscure or experimental settings that have no corresponding UI controls in the Preferences window. You set them using the Terminal application (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal).

Release notes here.

Exoplanets, variable stars, SkySafari, and more

M 67 – exoplanets and variable stars

Today we released Observatory 1.3, and we are pretty excited about that. Discover the hidden gems in your images!

Above you see a cropped image of open cluster M 67 that was captured several years ago. We unearthed it when we clicked on the Exoplanets Smart Album in one of our Observatory libraries. Turns out it captured five stars with confirmed planets! Observatory now can display overlays for variable stars and systems with confirmed planets. And of course it tags images with these objects. This is a great opportunity for going back through your old images for photometric measurements.

In addition to the catalog of confirmed exoplanets and variable star catalog GCVS 5.1, Observatory 1.3 also adds catalogs for double stars and planetary nebulae. For images in your libraries that have already been matched, you can add tags for these objects with the “Update Tags” command, accessible by holding down the option () key while opening the Image menu.

Another exciting enhancement in this release is the integration with SkySafari. If you have SkySafari 6.1 or later on your macOS system, you really ought to turn on this feature in Observatory’s General Preferences. It will enable the “Show Sky Chart” command for matched images. Choose it, and Observatory will open SkySafari, point its sky chart to the center location of your image, all while adjusting its field of view. It’s a great way to see what else might be interesting in the image’s neighborhood, and you can also use it to quickly get some background information of the objects in your image.

We also further enhanced Observatory’s photometry feature, and added a “Show Console” command so you can more easily save the measurements. We made the timeout for the blind plate solver configurable, tweaked things here and there and of course fixed a few bugs.

Lastly, we added a reminder to rate Observatory on the Mac App Store. Please rate it or leave a review, regardless the country you live in. It will make Observatory more visible on the Mac App Store, which helps us with sales, and that you see back in the form of enhancements to Observatory.

For more details, please see the release notes.