It is time to look at iObserve again; since Cédric told us about it in September, I have used the App for three separate observing runs. So here is what I found out about iObserve as an end-user. In a few words, iObserve is a must-have for any observational astronomer. I would even recommend it for people who have been observing for years. iObserve is worth its $11.99 price tag (Free Demo) many times over.
My favorite part about iObserve was that it provided a platform aggregates (almost) all the information I wanted about my targets. There was no need to open separate windows for my IDL-based airmass charts, for a webpage with SDSS finding charts, or for a webpage with my target list(s). All of them, and many other functionalities, were right there in the iObserve window. Obviously, all of this was well organized and easy to access.
Here’s a list of what I liked:
- Most major observatories are already built into the App, so you have access to not only the LST, UT, sunrise/sunset times but also to the observatories’ website from within the App.
- The airmass charts had twilight times and moon tracks clearly marked. If you turn tracking on, you can see the exact airmass and altitude of your target for any time in the night.
- SDSS (gri composite), 2MASS (J, H, or K), or DSS (blue, red, or infrared) images can be easily downloaded with a click to be used as finding charts.
- You can upload any number of targets and plot their airmass tracks simultaneously. This makes it really easy to plan the next few targets you are going to observe.
- If needed you have access to the SIMBAD or the NED pages for your target (if they exist). For well-known objects (like standard stars), iObserve will automatically fetch aliases, magnitudes, and references from SIMBAD.
What this meant for me was a very smooth observing experience. With very little prior planning, I was able to sort through and select optimal targets during the night. I was able to easily pull SDSS or 2MASS finding charts to locate fainter objects that were barely visible on telescope camera.
There were a couple things that would make the iObserve experience even better. The ability to store target lists in folders, upload additional fields (e.g., mag, colors), and to view them in sortable tables would mean iObserve would be the only App I need for observing. Fortunately, Cédric is already working on these and many more features (including Observation Simulator, Time/Flux converters, and eventually night logs).
Cédric said in his post that iObserve is the App that he wished he had when he was working as an astronomer at La Silla Observatory in Chile. I heartily agree. After a few years of fumbling around with my own scripts, I am delighted to have an App that works seamlessly. Plus, the iPad version is coming soon.