Chris conducted the meeting with his usual introductory news items, before moving into "guest speaker" mode, which meant he adressed the Forum for two hours straight!
Tony Law (VP) listens while Chris Malikoff (President) addresses the meeting.
The topic of apps for I-phones, I-pads and the like may have come as a shock to some members, who may not have been aware of the astonishing power available to them in a low cost mobile device. Chris showed the Forum twenty-four sample apps, out of the huge array of astronomy related apps. He demonstrated their capabilities and usefulness to amateur astronomers - especially for researching and planning your observing session but also for direct connection to your telescope for control of either camera or telescope. Here are most of the apps Chris demonstrated; my own comments added; with the prices wherever I could ascertain them.
Sky Safari 3: A wonderful "planetarium" app with pan and zoom capabilities; telescope control functions; customised observing planner; and an auto-updating data base. It comes in three versions: SkySafari 3 (free), SkySafari 3 Plus ($10.49) and SkySafari 3 Pro ($41.99).
I personally use the intermediate level SkySafari 3 Plus and I am impressed by it's ease of use and it's updating directory of comets. I know Comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) is currently racing through Crux and Musca, so I typed in "Lemmon" and up came all the data you would ever need on this comet, including location coordinates and visibilty details. Hit "Centre" and you go to back to the planitarium with the comet accurately centred! Probably the best planetarium app so far.
Star Walk: A good all-round planetarium ($2.99) with an "aim and identify" facility.
Sky Orb 3D: Excellent 3D planeterium with a monthly calendar and plenty of extras, ($0.00).
Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy: Check out any definition. I could not ascertain the price.
Sky Time: Very simple but invaluable. For your location it gives Julian/Sideral/Universal and local times, ($0.00).
AstroPlanner: Another of my own personal choice apps. Lists Messier/Sharpless/NGC/IC/Lynds objects. Lists them as visible or not. Altitude curves, images, altitude, any date and time. This is a "must have" app for astro-planning. ($10.49 and worth it!).
Star Charts by Wil Tirion: Serious "page by page" style star charts, by the highly respected Wil Tirion. Eighteen star maps. ($4.49).
Planisphere: On line replica of tradional star wheel, with extras. ($0.99).
Space Map: Discover the Universe beyond the Solar System, zooming out to galactic scale, ($6.49)
Moon Calendar: A very handy programmable calendar showing moon phases, rise/set times and other statistics for your time and location ($0.99)
Emerald Observatory: A very cool looking multi-purpose 12/24 hour clock/calendar, with solar system visibility information, sidereal/solar/UTC time, equation of time, solar system alt/az details and Moon phase - all on one page. ($0.99). I bought it!
The nifty looking Emerald Observatory app on my I-pad.
Sky Survey: A planetarium style view of the sky in zoomable photographic form ($2.99). This app is exactly what I need for planning wide-field astro-imaging. Unfortunately for me, the earlier I-pads (without a gyroscope) do not support the app.
AstroAid: Visualises how you can expect to see Messier/NGC/IC/Caldwell objects in your telescope with your eyepieces or camera. ($2.99). I will certainly be buying this really essential app for serious astro planning.
Distant Suns: Off-line planetarium app with many extras, including "What's up tonight?" ($10.49).
Galaxy Collider: A galaxy simulation app. ($0.00).
Moon Map Pro: Two sets of detailed Moon maps for just $0.99!
Declination: Invaluable tool for anyone who polar aligns. For any place on Earth, the app gives the angular separation between Magnetic (Compass) South and True South. ($0.00). It tells us the angle is 12.46 degrees at my home and Stargard is 12.38 degrees. Interestingly, my previous method gave me 11.2 degrees at Stargard, so I am going to have to investigate further. I wonder what angle other MAS members use, locally? There does not seem to be any help or other backup information about the method used and whether it updates as the magnetic pole shifts.
The Photographer's Ephemeris: Strangely this is free for the PC desktop but $9.49 for Ipad/Iphone. Tells a photographer what the sun direction and angle is, to plan for the optimum natural light. A great concept, I have it on my PC but have to confess I've not yet actually used it.
Trigger Trap: Configurable remote control your camera. ($0.00). Looks interesting, I might try it.
Long Exposure Calculator: Star trail photography. ($4.49).
Planets: A 3D guide to the Solar System. ($0.00). This is the little app that has been trying to download to my I-pad for the last fortnight.
EDIT: 23rd January 2013 9.45 pm - These are the details from Chris of the other three apps, which I failed to record properly:
Southern Stars "SkyFi" (US$159) - WiFi-enabled hot spot base station which acts as a wireless conduit for instructions coming from an iPad, iPhone or Android device and going to your telescope handset. http://www.southernstars.com/products/skyfi/index.html
TriggerTrap Mobile app and Dongle. (US$30) The dongle is a hardware cable that interfaces your phone's speaker port with your particular camera's remote trigger port. You need to order both the dongle AND the appropriate cable connector for your camera. https://triggertrap.com/products/triggertrap-mobile/
Bulb Ramping - TriggerTrap Mobile provided the user with a mode called Bulb Ramping. The term is sometimes shortened to "bramping" by some. Ostensibly, it allows the photographer to set a gradual change in exposure time settings over a fixed period of time. Rather than rely on the camera's interpretation of lighting conditions, you can lock aperture and ISO and then generate a sliding scale of exposure times so that as you approach a change in light conditions (dusk for instance) you can accommodate it which results in even exposures as it gets dark (or light).
During question time, someone mentioned Zite Personalised Magazine. This is a very intelligent free magazine that I can highly recommend as another form of astronomy news feed. I have found it picks up articles that I do not see in tradional astro news outlets. Certainly it's a great aquisition for your mobile device.
Well done, Chris, for talking eloquently for so long and sharing your encyclopaedic mind with us. It's given a few ideas to those of us with Ipads, Iphones etc. and I hope it has triggered some thoughts in the minds of those who have not yet tried them. They are astonishing devices and I am sure it will not be long before 'goto' telescopes comprise a docking port for a mobile device to fully control the telescope and camera.
Apple's app store submission process has become noticably simpler recently. I've also come to think that as a app gets reputation, their apps tend to "jump the queue". This is good news for those developing a diverse software company.