Details about the development of Sky Map Online

Sky Map Online Timeline
  • Dec 2007 – I got a “junk” telescope, a hobby killer from a local supermarket. I had a lot of troubles to find the brightest astronomical target (our moon) and especially to keep it in my field of view; in a few days I got rid of the telescope convinced that the next telescope (if ever) will be a motorized one
  • Dec 2008 – got my serious telescope (more details on my astronomy section of my blog ) – it was a small goto refractor and I started to enjoy deep space objects; I finally got hooked by the “astronomy” bug
  • Jun 2009 – I’ve started to create Spica application - a planetarium software (Windows .NET client application) – I’ve never really released it due to various factors
  • May 2010 – Started the implementation of Sky Map Online website by reusing some of my Spica Windows application source code
  • Jun 2010 - Finished the first version of Sky Map Online website and had it hosted on a permanent server
  • Jun 2010 - present - Different site improvements and development of new features (HTML5 page, constellation data and game, website tweaks, comments page, etc)
  • Jan 2011 - Release of SkyMap for Windows Phone 7 application
Sky Map Online - Implemented Features List
- The original porting of my application (and stripping down the client specific features)
- Find a domain name and hosting solution
- Come up with an optimization for picking the right objects when dealing with a high zoom level
- Create the web interface
- Location support – find location by IP or by a specified address, city or zip code
- Deal with a googlebot issue – it crawled my staging (testing) website “obscuring” my production server
- Determine client local time zone
- Make the size of the skymap customizable
- Display constellation name
- Messier list
- Create customizable toolbar and navigation controls (in javascript)
- Object information and search
- Support for more than 1 million objects from Tycho2 catalog
- Draggable map: use tiles, move all map logic from server to client, actually a complete redesign to support a better user experience
- Moon and planetary data - calculate dinamically their RA/Dec coordinates
- Rise and set times
- 3D effect for sky map borders (use gradients)
- gradients for bright stars (to look like spheres)
- replace gif with png files to support transparency
- label improvements (tranparency and more info)
- Alt/Az and RA/Dec data in labels
- AltAz grid and telrad
- move the website from Montreal to Houston
- clean up the keywords, meta tags, etc
- UI redesign - no more controls clutter on top - now replaced by expandable menu
- site navigation controls on left side - prepare to add more information and move my astronomy blog on this site
- handle the mousewheel (zoom on mousewheel)
- options to show/hide constellation names and constellation lines
- Share map (sky map links to be shared with friends or saved locally for future use)
- Sky Map (menus and controls) translated to Spanish, German and Romanian (localization based on the browser language)
- publish all 88 Constellations maps (Constellation section of this site)
- crete a site map (to be used by search engines)
- Comments page - users can add comments directly on this site
- HTML5 Sky Map basic implementation - the map is created on the client side and, the overall experience should be better (faster load time, hover support, better zoom experience, etc)
- recognize the constellation trivia game
- Main page tweaks - more stars displayed at high zoom levels
- release of SkyMap for Windows Phone 7 (wp7.aspx page added to this website)
Why was this project started?

There are a couple of answers. I can say it started because my passion, desire to combine my software experience with my hobby (amateur astronomy), a few scenarios not met by existing software.
But what does it take to finalize a project like this?
Well… the answer depends. It depends a lot of its users and the feedback I get.
It’s done in my spare time… and time is quite valuable :)
I’d say that the success of any project takes a right attitude, a statement that “we can do this”.


The list of people helping me with Sky Map Online is quite long. Special thanks to Adrian Vinca, Edi Nica and Chris Wood for testing, suggestions and constant feedback. Also, thanks to many other people providing additional comments and feedback.

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