Thursday, August 28, 2014

15,000th observation submitted!

The Loss of the Night app project passed another milestone today, with the 15,000th observation being submitted early this morning. The observation was made by an anonymous user in New Jersey, USA under partly cloudy skies. The naked eye limiting magnitude was about 4, with 5 of 7 stars observed.

As I noted when we passed 10,000 observations, most submitted observations are not made under ideal conditions. Sometimes people test or demonstrate the app indoors, sometimes the moon is up, and very often (as in the case of observation #15,000) the sky isn't clear. But through the dedication of our participants, we are continuously building up a record of how skyglow is changing worldwide.

Now the race is on to observation #20,000. To celebrate that milestone, I will again send a holographic postcard to the registered user who makes a complete observation (7 or more stars, no moon, no twilight, no clouds) with the observation number closest to 20,000.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New version of the app is coming soon - we need your help this week!

An updated version of the Loss of the Night app is currently in development. The most exciting changes will include:

  • iPhone version!
  • Improved feedback: We fit your data and tell you the estimated naked eye limiting magnitude, approximately how many stars are in your sky, and how consistent your observations were.
  • Smoother behavior: Phones that had problems with an unstable star field should now be fixed.
  • More customization: You can change font sizes and switch the screen brightness between a city/country mode. Pinch zooming will replace the zoom buttons.
  • Better night mode: Removal of gray backgrounds and replacing orange with red in many places.
  • Faster GPS convergence
  • Expanded language support
  • More accurate measurement technique
  • Better set of stars used

We can still use your help with that last point!  The new version has removed stars that are so close together that it's difficult to tell which we're asking for, for example the Pleiades and Alcor. But we have also built in a new list of "easy" stars. These are stars for which you, the users, were able to make decisions on quickly and decisively. We have lots of data about bright Northern Hemisphere stars, but we've had far fewer observations of faint stars, and much less data from the Southern Hemisphere.

The final list of "easy" stars needs to be completed by Monday, so there's one week left for you to help us learn which stars are the best! If you have clear skies at some point this week, please take a moment to go outside and use the app. The more stars you observe, the better, so if you are enjoying yourself, please continue after you've reached seven stars.

This could be you this weekend!

Thank you to everyone who has used the app in the last year!
We appreciate everyone who provided valuable feedback through email or comments!
Dankeschön to our translators!

And finally, if you've told other people about the app, then we can't thank you enough! The more people that take part, the better and more accurate our results will be.

Watch for the official announcement of the new version here in the fall.