I spent some time the last few days to resume investigating a much-requested feature – easy management of solar system objects and especially of comets (and asteroids).
Results so far:
- a list of the parameters used in ssystem.ini to define a comet;
- a regular expression parsing the format used by the IAU Minor Planet Center to describe comet ephemerides (they have a nice list of observable comets in formats for different astronomy applications – alas, not for Stellarium)…
- …and some code writing the orbital elements to a copy of Stellarium’s ssystem.ini file in the user data directory (this way, it overrides the default one in the installation directory without the need to overwrite it and lose the original data);
- a bug affecting the visualisation of comet orbits (Launchpad bug #640455, the screenshots are amusing if you have the slightest idea what an orbit should look like).
At the moment, the code I’ve written only parses a hard-coded description of comet 2P/Encke. The minimal functionality that I’m aiming for at this time is being able to import all the objects in a file (the MPC observable comets list). (And I haven’t said anything about asteroids, have I? ;)) This is still far from the feature described in the “Solar System editor” blueprint.
Addition difficulty is caused by the fact that the current Solar System code in Stellarium is tailored mostly to planets and their satellites, not to comets and asteroids (that have uncertain sizes and irregular shapes). Some re-writing may be in order.
Oh, and nothing of my work concerns comet rendering. Stellarium really needs more people who know OpenGL.