Friday, November 14, 2008

What's up Sky Forecasts

Stumble Upon Toolbar
What's up SkyForecasts provide useful information in one place for planning stargazing events.

Using an existing chart:
These extended Clear Sky Charts the following information in one page. Each image/link will open a new window or tab with the details you want.
  1. The small Clear Sky Chart graphic for the location. Click on it to see the full deatils including cloud cover, temperature, darkness, transparency, "seeing", and more. For more see Weather forecasts for Stargazers or visit Clear Sky Charts.
  2. The Heaven's Above link will provide predictions and charts and details showing visibility of the International Space Station, Satellites, Planets, Comets, and Iridium flares as seen from the location.
  3. The Google Maps link will take you to a Satellite photo of your observing location. This can help you plan where to setup for observing.
  4. A link to the locations web site.
To select from a list of existing charts, click here.

Coming Soon:

Here's a list of the sites with charts and some sites that will be appearing soon:
  • The Torrance Deep Sky Preserve
  • The Haliburton Scout Reserve
  • Camp Goodyear
  • Woodland Trails
  • Blue Springs Scout Reserve
  • The 433rd Home
They're very easy to add once you have a Clear Sky Chart.

Adding SkyForecasts to your own site:

In order to set up your own SkyForecasts you'll need
  • 8-9 pieces of information
  • possibly some skills with your blogging software and javascripts in case things don't work right the first time
The Information:
  • The style of chart you want. Right now there are 'full' and 'tiny' charts. The example above is a full chart. A tiny chart is suitable for a blog sidebar.
  • A handle for the Clear Sky Chart for your location. More on this anon.
  • The latitude of your observing location (decimal format with south being negative). Example: 43.6722 runs through Toronto Ontario.
  • The longitude of your observing location (decimal with west being negative). Example -79.5542 runs through the western side of Toronto.
  • The altitude (in meters) of your observing location. This is needed for Heavens Above. One place you can find this information is through Earth Tools which builds on Google Maps. Slide and zoom the map until the "+" is on your spot, then use height under "My Tools" to get the elevation.
  • The zoom factor for Google Maps. This will depend on how detailed the satellite photos are for the area. You can get this from the "link" URL to the map. It'll likley be between z=15 and z=20.
  • The timezone. For example "EST".
  • The locations description to be used in the link to the web site for the location.
  • The locations' URL to go for more information. (This is only used on full charts).
The Script You Need:

To access the ECSC function and graphics use:
<script src="" type="text/javascript"></script>
To call the function with the arguments use:
<script type='text/javascript'>
ECSC('full','LLdMrToON','43.6722','-79.55420','158','16','EST','433rd Home (Lloyd Manor Park, Etobicoke)','');

The Clear Sky Chart Handle:

You need to find an existing chart or setup a Clear Sky Chart through the procedures at Clear Sky Charts. The key information you need are the two URLs in the code you use to imbed the Chart. Using the Lloyd Manor Park example, these are:
Notice the "LLdMrToON" that's the handle.

If you get a new chart set up, please send a thank you to Allan Rahill at Environment Canada and Attilla Danko at ClearDarkSky for making these charts possible.

Outside of North America:

I've seen charts to the Clear Sky Charts for locations outside of North America.  These are produced by other organizations.  Rather than repeat this information, Clear Dark Sky keeps some information on this here.


I can't speak for other blogging software, but this was a major frustration in Blogger and here are the solutions.
  • Blogger has widget types for javascript for use in the sidebar and such. Javascript will work just fine in these.  You'll probably want to use the 'tiny' chart type for a sidebar.
  • Blogger's standard Post Editor will mangle scripts, tables and other HTML objects. Don't even try to fix it, just use one of these solutions.
  • You can change the global setting that controls the conversion of new lines to
    tags. Not recommended because it will reformat all your articles.
  • Use the new draft post editor for to edit the post. Under Post Options you should select "ignore newlines" for that post. And under no circumstances mix editing a post with the new and old post editors. For more information on the new post editor see Blogger in Draft or just try it out here.
If you want to experiment, W3Schools has a series of hands on demos called "Try It". Click here for a simple example. Simply replace the text between the <body> and </body> tags and click the button labeled "Edit the Text and Click Me".

Terms of Use

If you display Clear Sky Charts you should check out the terms of use here.

As for my scripts, I should probably add a GNU or CC license to them.  My intent simply put is that you can copy them or use them.  If you enhance them, make them freely available.  And keep the credit to Mang's Bat Page. A link back would be appreciated.

And BTW,  if you find them useful let people know.  Drop me a line, add a comment or link back here.  Also let the folks at Clear Dark Skies, Heavens Above, and Environment Canada know you like their stuff.

Update: Firefox Plugin for Clear Sky Charts

Sean at Visual Astronomy sent tipped me a firefox plugin for Clear Sky Charts. For more information see Sean's article and and the plugin page.

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