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5/26/2012

Review of Stargazing Log by CWE Software for my Galaxy II Phone

I know that many people are looking for reviews of apps online from the fact that my iPad app reviews generate hits on a pretty regular basis.  You can see that by my most popular hits to the right I believe.  Anyway, I got a new phone a month or so ago, a Galaxy II that I overall have really enjoyed.  While looking for some new free apps to add to it I came along this one called Stargazing Log by CWE Software.  So I downloaded it and began to use it to see what I thought of it.  So here is my review with screen shots taken from my Galaxy II.  I did not put the screen shots at the highest quality to save room on my Mac's hard drive. 





After downloading the app, when you open it, this is the main screen that greets you.  From here you can add a log sightings (an observation), browse your old records, manage your equipment which includes the telescope, eyepieces and other equipment you may have.  Finally, the app has a built in red flashlight that allows you to control the brightness of the light coming out. On the bottom here you will see that under Popular Sightings it lists that there are 5 Messier that there are 5 Messier objects up for viewing and that are up for viewing this week.  This month there are 13 Messier that are in a prime viewing location and then it lists which planets can be seen this month. 

One thing I do not like up front on this program is that there is no brightness control for the main screen, only for the flashlight.  I tried to control the brightness through my phones brightness setting and that didn't work either.  It is red, which is a good thing, but it is far to bright at a dark site in my opinion. I'd like to control how bright the main displays are. 







I'm not going to follow the sequential order that is on the main screen but I thought I would review by how I had to use the program.  The first thing I noticed after seeing if I could add an observation was that I had to have my equipment in.  So off to the manage equipment button and that took me to the screen above.  From here I clicked on Add Equipment and went to this screen.





From here I could pick which piece of equipment to add, be it eyepieces, telescope or misc. The back button is to return you to the previous screen.




I started by adding one of my scopes to the menu first by touching telescope.  This took me to the screen above.  I am entering my 14 inch dob which is a reflector so I touched that one. 




That took me to this screen.  It allowed me to enter a name for the Telescope; I chose to enter XX14i since I don't have an official name for my 14 inch.  It is a Reflector but you can choose Refractor, Catadioptric or Binocular.  I entered next the Optical Diameter in mm and then the focal length of the dob.  From here I entered Save and I had my first scope in.



I went back to the equipment main screen and chose to enter eyepiece and the following screen came up.  Here I entered a name for my first eyepiece, the 27mm Pan or 27 Pan and I entered the focal length in mm as 27.  No field of view was asked for as this is a log and doesn't show a star field of the object.  Hit save and then I added my other eyepieces one at a time.


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Next, I decided to test out how adding an observation would work.  I went back to the main screen and then touched the Log Sightings tab and came to the screen below.  The first thing I had to do was to change the date as the observation did not happen on 5/24/2012 (the date I took the screen shots).  By touching the Change . . . on the upper right I went to the next image below and using the + or the - I could adjust the date to match the actual record.  This way if I enter an observation after I record it another way I can still enter my data.  Next I touch the Type of object.  It allows you to choose Messier, New General Catalog (NGC), Planet, Moon, Other.  I would like to see some additions like IC, Double Stars added as well, at least Double Star as that is another very popular observation.  I then clicked on Select Telescope, selected my XX14i and the eyepiece, the 10mm Pentax XW and that was it.  I then clicked on Notes and typed in on the phone's keypad the actual observation. You can see that below the date image below.











How to change the date on an observation:






Here is my actual observation for NGC 4535 that I observed on May 19, 2012.  Another thing that needs to be added is the time of the observation. 






After you've entered an observation if you go back to the main screen and click on Browse Records, this screen comes up and you can click on the observation to view the details.  It is a nice way to keep your observations in one place and it allows you to sort in several ways as seen in the next image.  Quick stats shows how many Messier, NGC Objects and Planets you've observed and your favorite telescope to observe with is and your favorite eyepiece is.  See the image below for Quick Stats view.

The recent button takes you to the most recent observations you've had.  By date lets you see what you observed on a specific date and by object lets you enter the Messier, NGC, Planet, Moon or other object that you observed.





This is what recent, by date and by object will pull up if you search for an entry that way.







The Quick Stat page per my notes above.







Is this a perfect app for logging your observations? No, it isn't as the red light is too bright and you have no way to control the brightness in the logs and other such screens.  It lacks a double star entry which is annoying to me as I like doubles, and for 2 weeks out of the month they are my main observing object.  It also needs a time stamp for the observations so you can adjust the time like the date as time is an important part of the observation, though you can add that in the notes if you want. 

What I like is that it covers many of the main deep sky objects in terms of Messier and NGC.  I also like that the planets and the moon is included.  The flashlight is a nice feature if you don't have an adjustable light as the flashlights brightness is controllable.  I like that your observations are in one place and the stats are a nice addition.  One thing to watch is battery life on your phone, make sure it can hold a charge long enough for your observing period.  Here are my ratings for this app.

Ease of Use: ***** (Five Stars)
Field Use: *** (three stars, screen is too bright for me at a dark site)
Keeping Observations organized: ****  (I still like my digital recorder and if this app could tie in a digital recorder that would make it awesome).
Overall Rating: ****  (four out of five stars).

I think many will find this app very serviceable for them for keeping records of their observations and I think that CWE has a winner here.  With a few refinements it could be an outstanding 5 star app.  If the brightness issue could be worked out I would personally use it more in the field, especially if a digital voice recorder could be added in.  I'd pay for that if they made it an advance feature. For a free app this is a very good start. 

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