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List Filter Request
#1
Hi Greg,

Probably a little late in the game for this request.....but perhaps this can be considered for a future update.  

I very often use the red sliders in the Night Bar to restrict the window to the hours of my planned observing.  Then, I typically use the list filter to choose one of the "near Max Altitude" settings.  

As I'm a visual observer, I mostly tend to stay right on the meridian to ensure that I'm looking at an object at it's highest point in the sky.  It's minor, but I'd love to see a seeing in the filter list called "Crosses Meridian" or something like that.....so that my list would display just objects that actually cross the meridian at during the window that I'm observing.  Minor, I know - but I would find it useful.  

For example, if I look at the Messier observing list tonight from 6:39p to 3:24a (the period of complete darkness at my site) and set the filter to "Near Maximum Altitude" it gives me a list of 40 objects that meet visibility criteria.  In that list, 22 of the objects will actually cross the meridian - be *at* their highest - while I plan to observe.   

And if that's not possible or you don't think it's a worthy addition - the method I've been using for the last 10+ years does also work fine.  

Thanks for all your years of work.  Looking forward to ST4V.

Mike Wiles
Phoenix, AZ
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#2
Hi Mike,

Warning: you may not like my answer, but I urge you to keep an open mind.

This was going to come up soon anyhow, so we might as well get into it now. To be honest, my vision for observing software is to eliminate the sort of thing you are asking for. ST4 no longer even has altitude and sky darkness filters. Why? Because they are crude measures that obscure what we are really trying to accomplish. We can do so much better. Those filters are only there in ST3 because back when I developed ST2, it was all we could do with software. In my view, the point of software isn't to let us do what we can do without it, only on a computing device. It is to take things to the next level, to do what we otherwise can't accomplish without the software.

Yes, naturally most good views are going to come when the object is crossing the meridian, because that is when it is highest in the sky. That's trivial. But there are many exceptions to that rule, and that is where software can really shine. Here are a few of those exceptions off the top of my head:

1. The moon comes up before the object crosses the meridian
2. The view of brighter extended objects depends very little on the altitude in the sky
3. There is little advantage to observing many circumpolar objects when they cross the "high" meridian. They can be well placed for hours before/after.
4. Alt/Az mounted scopes have a dead zone that we want to avoid near the meridian when this is also close to the zenith

Every object is different. Every telescope is different. As is every location and observer. The purpose of SkyTools is to leave the world of generalities and rules of thumb behind, replacing it with accurate predictions that take into account all these various factors.

In order to offer a better solution, ST4 introduces observation quality. This is the relative quality of your observation over time, as compared to when it is at its best. Armed with this information, ST4 can tell you the range of time over which an object can be observed at its highest quality. You might be surprised how little this can depend on being at the meridian. The end result is an ability to make much smarter and more sophisticated decisions than "on the meridian." To me, this is the whole point of SkyTools, so please understand that I am not likely to offer less sophisticated alternatives.

If your concern is that your telescope is very slow to move or there is some other reason to wish to minimize how much it moves between objects, there are now solutions to that.

It may take some adjustment in thinking, but in the end, I think you will like it.
Clear skies,
Greg

SkyTools Developer
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#3
Greg,

I anticipated either a "yes, no problem!" or a considered, well thought out answer. Thank you for the latter. I'm looking forward to ST4V and taking advantage of any new observing tools or methods offered.

Thanks,

Mike
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#4
Thank you for understanding. I've always chosen to be honest in these situations rather than say what people want to hear and then do whatever I want to anyhow.

Now if it turns out there is a real need for something in ST4 that I haven't considered, please feel free to speak up. If you can help me understand why a feature is needed then I have been known, on rare occasions, to actually listen to suggestions. (some sort of sarcastic smiley face could go here)

I hope you find that ST4 gets the job done for you. Fingers crossed.
Clear skies,
Greg

SkyTools Developer
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