Thanks to the efforts of Henry de Valence this summer, KStars can now use OpenGL to render the sky map much faster than before on good graphics hardware. Today, after many mistakes, the merger finally succeeded and trunk now has OpenGL support.
A lot of functionality is still broken in the OpenGL version, and we hope we can fix it before KDE SC 4.6 is tagged. If you have any development skill, or experience fiddling around with Qt’s OpenGL framework and have some time to spare, this is a good time to help us out. Also, bug reports will be appreciated a lot.
OpenGL now opens up a lot of possibilities — realistic atmospheric effects, texture-mapped milky way, cool overlayed guides and information…
But there’s something that I’ve been thinking a bit about these days — should KStars continue? I wonder if a lot of people actually use KStars. The one reason I like KStars is that although it’s not flashy and graphically appealing or very beginner-friendly, I think it does a very good job of catering to the keen armchair astronomer or educator. It has tools that popular software like Stellarium probably don’t have. At the same time, there are better software which work very well for the advanced amateur astronomer like Skychart, that may be difficult to use and not at all flashy, but do an amazing job. With Stellarium being such a popular, and awesome program (I really like a lot of things about Stellarium. We’ve frequently picked up ideas from Stellarium etc.), I wonder if there really is reason to further the development of KStars. I’m not the maintainer, so I really have no right to comment, but these are just my thoughts. Other astronomy software seem to have a good deal of developer power, that they are using to dash ahead, while KStars hasn’t accrued a lot of features in the recent past. Enough lamentation, there are some things that KStars does really well. I really like the outcome of last year’s GSoC by Prakash Mohan — the Observation Planner. I think we have one of the better open source observation planners around. I got an opportunity to actually use it on the field once, and while I still find a lot of scope for improvement, I think it’s one of the best tools I’ve ever used.