Happy Birthday Observatory!

Today marks the fourth anniversary of Observatory launching on April 25, 2016. To mark the occasion, below we reflect on some of the key features added to Observatory over the last four years.


2016 Release Timeline for Observatory

Upon launch Observatory supported five image archives in its Virtual Observatory feature. Within the first few months we added six more, and added search results filtering. Initially it only shipped with Quick Look support for FITS and SBIG images, but in this year we also added Quick Look support for XISF images, and Spotlight support for all three image file formats. The release of macOS Sierra forced a complete overhaul of Observatory’s image browser, which delayed our planned optimizations and documentation, but the end result with the new focus bar was a great enhancement. We added extensive drag & drop support, the ability to detect changes to master images after importing, and the documentation was ready just before the year’s end.


2017 Release Timeline for Observatory

Although we had been improving Observatory’s performance throughout 2016, it was still a year where we mainly focused on adding features. 2017 was the year of optimizations. Observatory became much faster throughout, used less memory and now remained responsive while loading, processing and stacking images. We also made many improvements to the user interface, introduced the plugin for Acorn and the limited Observatory Demo. Up to that point, the only way to try it was to buy it, so this was obviously a welcome improvement.


2018 Release Timeline for Observatory

This year our focus was back on major new features. Soon after the year started we added nondestructive adjustments like Cosmetic Correction, Flatten Background and Chromatic Align. The Quick Look plugins now automatically debayer images when needed, and for our users in the Southern Hemisphere we added one more image archive to Virtual Observatory. Observatory gained support for blind plate solving, and we enhanced its photometry capabilities. Overlays for confirmed exoplanet host stars, variable and double stars were added, and we worked with the developers of SkySafari to open Sky Charts directly from Observatory. We even enhanced the user interface for Dark Mode.


2019 Release Timeline for Observatory

Having added so many new features in the previous year, our focus moved to the more subtle enhancements, like watched source folders, to make it easier to use Observatory during an imaging session. We lifted important restrictions in the user interface, and focused on making Observatory easier to use.

Looking ahead at 2020

In our first update this year we have integrated the documentation with the application itself, so it can be searched, and we have made many smaller enhancements and bug fixes. Some of these are actually very significant, like crashes, which already were quite rare. I am happy to report that we have not received a single crash report since this last update six weeks ago.

Looking ahead, well, I’m sure Apple has more surprises coming at us this year. Hopefully not as problematic as macOS Sierra in 2016 or High Sierra in 2017. Regardless if Apple manages to not disrupt the plans too much, you can once again look out for many more great enhancements to Observatory this year!