Exoplanet Explorer: V2 nearly done
Exoplanet Explorer 2 is coming together nicely and is looking good for a release on the weekend. I’ve spent the last few days bug hunting and fixing every little thing I could find that wasn’t right, so you’re going to notice a lot of changes when it hits.
The biggest difference is that you’ll no longer be selecting from stars or planets when you search. Instead, “stars” has been replaced by “systems” because Exoplanet Explorer is now aware of binary star systems with more than one star, which are actually pretty common in the Galaxy. At the moment there’s only seven such systems that are viewable in the app, but I know of more. Information is pretty scarce on these so I’ll add more binaries in future data updates whenever I can dig up the stats for them.
Seaching has had a few changes too. There’s now a “name” box into which you can type the name of a planet or star using an on-screen keyboard. It’s wild-carded so if you don’t know the whole name, then just a few characters will do. The app knows most of the different names that each system or planet can have (some have dozens), so it should be pretty easy to find what you are looking for.
There’s also a couple of new preset searches, including “Systems by No. of Stars” so you can find those binary systems, “Kepler Planets” because Kepler is where the action is and “Systems by Update” to find the star systems that have recently been updated.
Speaking of updates, the planet data updating functionality is now finalised. Each time the app starts it will attempt to connect to the server and download only the star systems that have been changed. The data file for each system generally weighs in at less than 1KB so it should update pretty quickly and use next to no bandwidth while doing it. The app will ship with the data update option disabled, so you’ll have to turn it on after you install, but the built in database will be current so you won’t see any data updates until something new is announced.
Please be aware that although the app is able to update its database, only new planets that make it into the Exoplanet Encyclopaedia are included. The media on the other hand grabs planet announcements and runs with them, often jumping to conclusions and blowing them out of proportion. It may take a couple of days between the media frenzy of a significant discovery and the update that pulls it into the app and in some cases it might take even longer because announcements don’t always include enough information to be able to simulate the planet, so it has to wait for the scientific paper to be released.
Because of all the changes in the app that relate to calculating missing data, you’re going to notice slight changes in the numbers of each type of planet. The most obvious one is the Mercurian world orbiting PSR 1257 which used to be the only Cold Mercurian body in the app. The new calculation and estimation functions have came to the conclusion that although PSR-1257 is a dead star, it’s still incredibly hot and the planets that orbit the pulsar are now in the hot category. This struck me as odd when I first saw it, but I was able to find a scientific paper that confirmed it. A few others have swapped around too, but in general the totals are pretty similar to the ones you’ll see in the old version of the app which you have now.
Finally, the search results panel and the planet info panel have now been merged and the buttons that controlled them have been changed so that there’s now a single button to show or hide the panel and a second button to switch between the pages. I decided that it was too confusing the way it was in version 1.x. The info panel now also includes the estimated surface temperature of the planet and the date on which it was discovered.
I’ve still got a couple of days up my sleeve so I’ll continue the bug hunt and add some new features (that won’t break anything) in preparation for the release.