Blog – WinStars 3

The comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS: A new Great Comet?

The comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS (full name – C/2023 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS) is an Oort cloud object discovered on January 9, 2023 by the Tsuchinshan (Purple Mountain) Observatory, located on the eponymous mountain near Nanjing in the People’s Republic of China. On February 22, 2023, it was independently discovered by the South African telescope of the ATLAS robotic system, part of the South African Astronomical Observatory (Sutherland, RSA).

In images taken on February 22 the asteroid-like object had a magnitude of +18,1, at that time it was at a distance of 7,3 AU (1,09 billion km) from the Sun. After initial calculations of its orbit, it was discovered that this is the same object that was reported to the Minor Planet Center from the Tsuchinshan Observatory on January 9, 2023. At that time, the object had a magnitude of +18,7. After receiving a message from the Tsuchinshan Observatory, it was added to the list of objects awaiting confirmation. But since no further observations followed, on January 30 it was excluded from this list and was considered lost. According to accepted objects naming conventions, the comet includes the names of both observatories. It was subsequently found in images taken on December 22, 2022 by the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory; its magnitude was of +19,2…+19,6.

Brightness estimates showed that during perihelion its brightness will be equal to a magnitude of +3, and the comet will reach its maximum brightness in about 3 weeks, in mid-October. Gideon van Buitenen estimated that during perihelion the brightness will reach a magnitude of +0,9, and its maximum value – during its closest approach to Earth – will be -0,2.

At the moment, the comet is moving in a westerly direction and is in the Virgo constellation, almost at the border with Leo. It will enter this constellation late in the evening of June 14 (UTC). After which it will disappear in the rays of the Sun until the end of September. Early in the morning on August 10, it will enter into the Sextant constellation. On September 27, 2024, the comet will pass perihelion, its westward movement will stop, and it will begin to move eastward at high speed, up to 5,6 degrees per day. Already at the end of the day of September 28, the comet will return to the Leo, and on October 4 it will return to Virgo. On October 12, the comet will be at its closest distance from Earth – 0,472 AU (70,6 million km). After this, it can be observed in the evening sky after sunset. According to calculations, in mid-October the brightness of the comet will be maximum and comparable to the brightness of Vega. It is assumed that due to the Seeliger effect, the brightness may jump to a magnitude of -4. It is also expected that an anti-tail will be visible, which will only enhance the spectacle. The comet will be visible to the naked eye until mid-November.

A sufficiently large perihelion distance means that the comet should not be torn apart by tidal forces, and it will most likely survive its approach to the Sun. On the other hand, observations show that in May the increase in the brightness of the comet stopped and began to lag behind the calculated one. Perhaps the comet lost all its reserves. Then its maximum brightness will reach only a magnitude of +4. So will we see a new Big Comet in October? We will find out about this very soon.

Author: Sergey Telukhin


Gratuity, social networks and latest changes

A few important changes in recent weeks: the software is now completely free of charge and is moving definitively to Qt 6.X.
It is enriched with new features and integrates the Chromium browser, which improves the visualization of pages written in html (this only concerns the “Info” section for the moment). I rechecked the accuracy of the calculations for an imminent asteroid observation mission at the Pic du Midi observatory. During these checks, I could see that W3 is much faster and easier to use than more popular tools. Sorry for the lack of objectivity 😉

I’m continuing to develop it, even if its audience remains very modest. I’ve renounced to use X (twitter) which is becoming a cloaca more and more disgusting. I opened an account on Mastodon but without much conviction. I’ve never been particularly passionate by social networks.

JUICE Launch: Exploring Jupiter’s Galilean Moons

On April 14, 2023, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) mission was launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket towards Jupiter’s natural satellites. The spacecraft will fly by Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede multiple times before entering orbit around Ganymede in December 2034 for an in-depth study that will conclude in September 2035.

The primary goal of the JUICE mission is to determine whether conditions favorable to life exist in the subglacial oceans that are believed to be present on these three Galilean moons. The objective is to study the characteristics of these oceans and understand their formation. In addition, the spacecraft will contribute to deepening our knowledge of Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere.

The JUICE spacecraft weighs approximately 5.1 tons and uses large solar panels to generate its power. It carries nearly 285 kilograms of scientific instruments, including spectrometers to study the composition of the moons’ soil and atmosphere, a camera and an altimeter to map their surfaces, a radar to examine the superficial layers of the subsurface (including the ice crust and potential oceans), a radio experiment to deduce the celestial bodies’ internal structure, a magnetometer, and instruments to measure fields and particles to analyze the characteristics of the space environment.

The journey to Jupiter will take about seven and a half years, during which the spacecraft will perform several gravitational assist maneuvers to accelerate and adjust its trajectory. These maneuvers include flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mars, allowing JUICE to reach Jupiter in 2029.

The free downloadable “Juice” module allows you to track the probe’s trajectory until 2031 (for now).

Also worth checking out: this article published on the Freeappsforme website. Good luck to them!

Version 3.0.283: Improved representation of stars and removal of video mode

This new revision introduces a module (star3d) that enhances the appearance of stars by adding specific textures for each spectral type as well as 3D prominences. The representation is not entirely accurate from a scientific standpoint, as the visible surface of the stars and the prominences seem to combine different wavelengths. However, this adds just a bit of complexity.

Version 3.0.283 also removes the video mode, which has proven to be useless for most smartphones. Indeed, video sensors generally perform poorly in low light conditions and cannot detect stars in viewfinder mode. Moreover, this feature required overly intrusive permissions, such as access to the camera and microphone.

Try the next version of WinStars built with Qt 6

WinStars 3 is currently based on the Qt 5 software library, which allows for compatibility with all platforms, among other features. However, this Qt 5 version is now becoming obsolete, and it’s time to switch to the latest available version. This transition will help reduce incompatibilities with the most recent operating systems and introduce new features to the program.

Since this is a major update, it is likely that numerous issues will arise during this transition. That’s why I have decided to offer a beta version for in-depth testing.

If you’re interested, you can try out this test version for Windows by clicking on the following link:

Or find a beta version compatible with arm68-v8a processors running on Android:

If you encounter any errors, it’s crucial to report them to me. You can use the forum or send a message to the following address:

Thank you in advance for your valuable assistance!

3d landscapes and photogrammetry

Introducing 3D landscapes! For now, this new feature remains experimental. The program currently only displays a single object (a mesh) containing all the elements of the landscape (vegetation, buildings, etc.). These 3D objects have been obtained through photogrammetry, a technique that involves capturing a scene from multiple viewpoints to create a volumetric reconstruction.

The solar radio telescope element seen in WinStars.
The complexity of the mesh can be viewed by activating the 3D/wireframe mode option.

However, this solution is not optimal. The elements of the landscapes are still too approximate in places, and the files are too large. Later on, I will use the tessellation technique to improve rendering quality and reduce file size.