Q&A


Heavenly-Opportunity Q&A Log -- FAQ




Below are questions posed from current or prospective users relevant to the current version of Heavenly-Opportunity, along with appropriate responses.

Q.  When will you have a Windows-CE version for PDA’s or a version for the Mac OSX?
A.  I have no immediate plans for same.  However, Mac users report that although they had some problems loading Windows on their Mac, "once that was done loading your program was easy and it works great. It is just like having a PC again and I can work on both operating systems at the same time and transfer files between them."

Q.  After three attempts to install Heavenly-Opportunity after downloading and 'unzipping' it with WinZip, when attempting to run the program I get an error message about File Not Found,  Runtime error '53'. I am using Windows 98SE on a Pentium 4 computer.  Any ideas?
A.  I wish I knew.  No one else has reported a similar problem.  Make sure you run the Setup program before trying to execute H-O out of a zip file.  I’d be happy to send a CD if you’d care to register.

Q.  I recently downloaded a trial version of your software.  I found a problem with the time for Arizona residents and visitors.  I live in Arizona and we're on Mountain Standard Time year round.  That means when everyone else goes to Daylight savings time we don't, so in the winter we are on Mountain  Time and in the summer we are on Pacific Time.  When I did an input to your program I got a sunset time of 8:38 PM when it actually set at 7:38PM.  What gives?
A.  Yes, Heavenly-Opportunity can have problems in certain geographic areas.  This problem has largely, but not completely, been fixed in the United States, but anomalies remain elsewhere in the world.  When the program estimates incorrectly, it is a simple matter to change the estimated time zone to correct the problem.

Q.  With purchase, am I entitled to free upgrades and for how long?
A.  Yes, you are entitled to free upgrades for the time being.  When and if significant new capabilities are added, I will reevaluate the costs.

Q.  Sometimes, Heavenly-Opportunity shows the moon setting on a day before it rises.  How can this be?
A.  H-O does not pay any attention to specific moon cycles, as do some other programs.  On any given midnight-to-midnight period, the moon can indeed set before it rises again.  Heavenly-Opportunity provides what photographers need to know and is correct.

Q.  Not every horizon is level, and it's not easy to determine how to specify search criteria for such situations (e.g., When will the moon appear above a mountain range that's at an altitude of 5 degrees?).  Ideally, of course, the search form sould include the option to specify a window of altitude as well as azimuth.  Can Heavenly-Opportunity do this?
A.  Yes, you are correct.  The program may be modified at some point in the future to do just as you suggest.  However, with a bit of practice, you will likely get good at estimating the time difference for the altitude gain you are looking for.  See the documentation for more on this topic.  And with the advent of Version 3, see the View | Daily Details option.

Q.  I downloaded the trial version of your Heavenly-Opportunity software but was unable to get it to accept a latitude over 65 degrees North. Is this just a limitation of the trial version?  If it is a limitation of your programme it is not going to be a whole lot of use to photographers who like me who work in polar regions!
A.  As I understand it (and I am no expert on arctic photography) very slight variations in atmospheric conditions can and do modify sunrise and set times above 65° to a considerable extent.  For that reason, and for simplicity of programming, Heavenly-Opportunity does not accept latitudes north or south of the Arctic or Antarctic Circles (actually 65° instead of the true 66° 32’).

Q.  I just visited your web site.  What a great idea.  I think it is a must for the advanced enthusiast and pro nature photographers. Would you consider the possibility of us reviewing it and selling it at our on-line photo shop?
A.  Yes, I am actively looking for just such opportunities.

Q.  I recently downloaded a copy of your software and, when I input information for New Zealand, the results I got just didn't make sense. I used the NZ time in the drop down box and lat and long for my home town of Wellington and the sunrise and sunset times, amongst other things, just weren't right.  Does the software work for New Zealand? or am I doing something wrong?
A.  When I look at the world time zone map (http://www.worldtimezone.com/index12.html) it appears that the zone boundaries really bend in odd ways to accommodate New Zealand.  As explained in the documentation, Heavenly-Opportunity views the world quite simplistically, in pre-set longitudinal blocks, regardless of the name of the time zone (except in the US).  If H-O is *consistently* off by an hour or two, simply choose the time zone that makes it 'right' and you'll be in business, presumably anywhere in New Zealand.  You might need to vary the zone during the year if to account for daylight savings time, if you need such an adjustment.

Q.  I just paid via PayPal for the download option for your Heavenly-Opportunity software, but received no info on how to download the full version.
A.  The download on the website is the full version of the program minus the password.  I will send your password via e-mail.

Q.   I have a problem.  I have downloaded the install program, but when I want to open the program a window appears with this message:
  Critical error, cannot find WMM data file in installation (or execution) folder.  Could you please help me! I work with Windows XP Pro.  Thank you.
A.  This sounds like one of four possible problems.  Either (1) you have not actually run the SETUP installation program (or did not complete the installation), (2) you may have tried to manually move the software after installation to a new folder but did not move everything required, (3) you are somehow executing the program from the folder into which you put the download rather than the folder into which the SETUP program put the software (presumably C:/Program Files/HeavenlyOpportunity if you chose the defaults), or (4) you put the H-O program (EXE) on your desktop rather than a shortcut to the program that should reside in the installation folder.  Do any of these possibilities sound right?

Fixing #4 should be easy.  If it is not that problem, my recommendation is to: (1) uninstall Heavenly-Opportunity using the normal Windows Uninstall procedure.  If Windows says that H-O is not installed, that tells us something right there. (2) Assuming that you still have HO-x-x.exe in your download directory, (re)install it by double clicking on that program and then running SETUP.  This should open an install window that asks where you want to put the software, etc.  Choose the defaults.  (3) Finally, use the Windows Start button to locate Heavenly-Opportunity among all installed programs and launch it that way.  If this does not work for you, please let me know what happens and we will work from there.  I know installation can at times be a confusing maze, but once it works, you are home free.

Q.  Do you know a web site I could use to check for meteor showers or other interesting events like eclipses that would be upcoming in the next year?
A.  This is not my specialty at all, but I asked a friend for some recommendations.  Here is what I was told:

Variety of topics, with various alert services: Sky and Telescope
Sun information: SpaceWeather
Satellites: Heavens Above
               CalSky
Colorado aurora predictions, with alert service: University of Colorado
More on the aurora:
Space news:
    also the florida today newspaper site.
Meteors:
      North American Meteor Network
      Lew Gramer, Public Outreach

Following are some of the best websites for information on comets visible
this month:
      Seiichi Yoshida's Weekly Information about Bright Comets:
      Summary of Bright Comet Visibility in Northern Hemisphere:
      Summary of Bright Comet Visibility in Southern Hemisphere:
      Greg Crinklaw's "Skyhound" - Comet Details and Printable Finder Charts:
      Coordinates for Observable Comets (Harvard site):
   
For Eclipses, check:
    http://www.mreclipse.com/
    http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html

For night photography, you might check:
    http://www.thenocturnes.com/

And here's a great site that I would add to the list.  It looks very useful for predicting cloud cover (and other things) for a variety of locations, mostly in Canada and the U.S.:
     
Clear Sky Clock

Q.  I am having trouble downloading and installing your program.  Can you help?
A.  Heavenly-Opportunity is distributed over the Internet as a 'self-extracting' program.  It requires four discrete installation steps that can be confusing for folks who do not regularly do this sort of thing.  Basically, the steps are (1) download the self-extracting program, (2) verify that the download worked properly, (3) unpack the installation program from the download program, and (4) run the installation program. 

Unfortunately, there are so many different web browsers, so many different Windows operating systems, and so many different ways that users have their systems configured, that making one set of instructions is, frankly, an impossible job unless you are Microsoft, which I am not.  But here’s a shot at the general steps that you must follow to get the job done. These instructions assume you are using Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP, NT or something even newer.  The instructions also use the name HO-x-x.exe as a placeholder for whatever version of the downloadable file is the most current, for example, HO-2-3.exe means version 2.3.

Before you begin, let me say that, as far as I know, you should not need to turn off your firewall or anything else, though it is usually a good idea to exit all other Windows programs except, of course, your browser.  One possible exception would be your virus scanner, but to start with, let's leave that on as well.

STEP ONE: Download the self-extracting program, HO-x-x.exe

The multiple files needed for installation have all been "packed" into one file to make for easy download.  To download this file and save it to your hard disk, click on the link on the Heavenly-Opportunity web page to HO-x-x.exe using your web browser after noting it's listed file size.  (You may be warned that this is a program which could do bad things to your computer, that "some files can harm your computer if it contains malicious code".  Don’t worry; Heavenly-Opportunity will not harm your computer.)  Perhaps after other questions, your web browser will ask you what to do with this file.  You want to save it to a folder (sometimes called a directory) on your hard disk where you can find it later.  Often, your browser may suggest a place for you, like C:/Temp or C:/Windows/Temp.  Either of these places would be a fine choice, or choose somewhere else.  Just be sure to note the name of the folder so you can find HO-x-x.exe when the download is complete.  It may be desirable to download to a 'new' folder if you regularly download to a /Temp folder; it would be cleaner to track any problems that might occur.

Assuming that you have gotten this far, you will normally see some indication that the download is taking place, perhaps with a progress bar.  You may be asked whether you want to open the file when the download is complete.  Say No to this question if asked, but you can say that you want to open the folder, if asked, because that will give you a head start on Step Two.  Regardless, you are making progress!

STEP TWO: Verify the size of the HO-x-x.exe you just downloaded

Although Internet downloads today are relatively error-free, errors can happen during the download process -- perhaps in conjunction with some virus scanners.  In particular, I want you to make sure that you have completely downloaded the HO-x-x.exe file.  So, open the Windows File Manager or Explorer or whatever program you use to see what files are found on your PC's hard disk.  (If you do not have an icon for Explorer on your desktop, right-click on the Start button and choose Explore.)  Then locate the folder in which you put the HO-x-x.exe file and locate that file name in the list. 

Note that your system may or may not actually show the file extension (.exe).  I recommend that you choose View | Details to see that the file is an “Application”, but more importantly, to see what the listed file size is.  The file size may also show up if you hold your cursor over the file long enough, or certainly if you right click on the file name and choose Properties from the pop-up menu.  In any event, check to see that the size listed is approximately the same as what is shown on the Heavenly-Opportunity web page where you downloaded the file in the first place.  Remember that the file size given by Windows is in kilobytes; divide it by 1000 to get megabytes.  If the file sizes differ by a large amount, the download must have failed and you must start all over again.  Otherwise, proceed to Step Three.

STEP THREE: Unpack the Installation Program from HO-x-x.exe

Once you have downloaded and verified the size of H-O-x-x.exe, Heavenly-Opportunity is still not ready to run on your PC, but you are ready to 'unpack' the installation program.  Unpack means to get the files out of the HO-x-x.exe file that are necessary for installation.  To start the unpacking process, double-click on the HO-x-x.exe file name, which should be easy since you have already located it on your hard disk.  (
Press Run if asked whether you really want to run this program because the "publisher could not be verified".)  Running the downloaded file will bring up a small WinZip Self-Extractor dialog box that asks which folder you want the unpacked contents to go into.  If the name in the "Unzip to folder:" box is not the same as the folder you put HO-x-x.exe into, use the Browse button to choose that folder – the one you were just looking at.  Then push the Unzip button.  You should see a progress bar flash by and then you will get a message that three or more files were unzipped successfully.  Press the OK button and then the Close button.  You are making good progress.

STEP FOUR: Install Heavenly-Opportunity

You should still be able to see your folder contents and may now see that you have new files in that folder, including one application called Setup.exe.  This is good news because Setup is the program that will actually install Heavenly-Opportunity.  Double-click on the Setup application.  You will now likely get a message that you will be installing new software and to exit all other Windows programs; do as it says.  Pressing OK will take you to another dialog that asks where you want to install Heavenly-Opportunity.  I recommend keeping the suggested folder (C:/Program Files/HeavenlyOpportunity), so just push the big button in the upper left of the dialog.  The installer will take care of the rest, except that you may be asked whether you would like to keep newer files currently on your system.  Always keep your newer files, regardless of how poorly Microsoft has worded the question.  [NOTE: I have had reports of installation problems, especially under Microsoft Vista, where you may get one or more messages saying that there is trouble registering a (DLL) file.  Just reply "Ignore" and all should be well.]

STEP FIVE:  Run Heavenly-Opportunity

I know I said installation was a four-step process -- and it is.  But you probably want to actually run Heavenly-Opportunity now that you have gone to all this trouble.  Fortunately, the hard work is behind you now.  Press the Windows Start button, choose All Programs, and look for Heavenly-Opportunity in the list of installed programs.  Point to Heavenly-Opportunity, click on the program name, and Heavenly-Opportunity should start up from there. 

If anyone has suggestions to improve these instructions, please let me know, along with the operating system and browser you are using.

Q.  I hear that there may soon be changes to our Daylight Savings Time, specifically the beginning and ending dates.  Will Heavenly-Opportunity be changed to address the new conventions?
A.  Yes, as necessary .  Indiana adopted a uniform DST across the state to take effect April 2, 2006, and is reflected in the most recent version of H-O.  Federal changes are in the works that will take effect in 2007.  As I have heard, apparently Congress wasn't entirely sure whether changing daylight savings would actually result in an energy savings, requested a study by the Department of Energy to specify the savings, and allowed themselves an 'out' to retract that part of the Energy Policy Act if it did not pay off.  H-O will be changed as necessary to reflect whatever restructuring is required.  If you hear of some new wrinkles I might not know about, please let me know.

Q.  Can you tell me why when I check the box for "Adjust height above horizon to" it only changes the time and compass heading for the sun and not the moon?
A. The real answer is that I have not figured out how to modify the algorithm for the moon's dynamics to actually make this adjustment.  The algorithm I had for sun dynamics already had that feature built-in.  Maybe some day I can figure this out.  A somewhat more practical answer is that I see this feature being used more for alpenglow photos and less for photos of the moon taken from high altitudes, but perhaps that is just rationalizing my inability to modify the moon's algorithm.

Q.  I am conducting a photography seminar on July 19, 2008, at Rocky Mountain National Park.  I chose this date because Heavenly-Opportunity reports the Sunset at 8:28 p.m. with an (almost full) Moonrise at 9:30 p.m..   I thought photographers might have some fun with this after the seminar, but now I'm wondering if there's too much time between sunset and moonrise for the moon to have an orange glow.  I think all of the incidents I've seen of this were when sunset and moonrise occurred closer in time  What's your opinion?  If the glow doesn't occur when the moon rises, might it pick up some glow as it rises higher?
A.  Good question.  Looking at the date you chose, I see that the 9:30 moon rise occurs after civil twilight but during nautical twilight.  In general, that means that contrast will be lacking.   Though I have not paid a lot of attention to this aspect of timing, I believe the delay in your case will reduce the probability that you will have an orange glow.  BUT, I think that lighting conditions depend very much on the clouds (their makeup and configuration) and dust in the atmosphere.  Under certain circumstances, the conditions you chose could work well, but I just think that the odds are probably less than 50:50 with that delay that you will get exactly what you seek.  However, weather and attitude permitting, watching the full moon rise from the mountains will be awe inspiring regardless!

Q.  I know that I will need a good compass to get the most from Heavenly-Opportunity.  Do you have any recommendations as to what kind of compass would be a good starting point?  I can't really afford a $300-500 brunton, but could afford something in the $100-200 range.
A.  Good question.  My chief recommendation is, go slow.  There is little sense in spending a lot of money on high precision unless you really need it.  You will find that most compasses (and clinometers that measure vertical angles) will not enable measurment much finer than a degree or so.  That's really ok since my assumption is that the photographer will have at least some latitude to adjust his or her position to compensate for the inevitable: terrain, clouds, weather effects, and so on.  Further, I suggest that you gain experience with an inexpensive compass so that you can discover which features you like and which you dislike.  That way, if you are like me, when you lose or break the first one, you will make a more knowledgeable decision on your next purchase.  That said, I might recommend a Suunto M3G.  It is not terribly expensive (~$35 on line), it has a luminous dial that is easy to read in low light conditions, and it has a built-in clinometer.  You will not get sub-degree accuracy, but like I said, my working assumption is that you can position yourself to make those needed last-second adjustments.

Q. 
I live outside the USA and was wondering whether there is a way to save locations into H-O's database so that I do not have to re-enter the Latitude and Longitude. I would use such an option to create a number of UK-based locations. Is this possible? If so, could you give me some brief instructions telling me how to do this?  Many thanks - and congratulations on producing such an excellent piece of software!  
A.  The answer is, No -- but Yes.  Let me explain.  It is not possible at this time to save a new location in H-O's database.  I have considered that possibility and may add such a feature eventually, but I believe there is an easy workaround.  Here's what to do:
1.  Choose either of the options to enter a location using lat/long on the left side of the main screen.
2.  Type in the desired lat/long.
3.  Press the Save button on the menu bar, or choose File | Save As ...
4.  Choose a folder and descriptive file name to save your 'Favorite'.  I recommend just using the default folder and file extension, HOP, but come up with a naming scheme you will remember.
5.  Repeat this process for multiple locations if you wish.
6.  The next time you use H-O, the last location saved will come up as the default.  You can use the Open button (or File | Open ...) to choose whatever saved Favorites you wish.

Q. I would like to photograph a night scene backlit by a 25-50% moon at 10-30 degrees above the horizon between 60 min after sunset and 11:00 pm.  I thought the elevation adjustment would give the 10-30 deg location, but moon settings do not change with the elevation adjustment (like the sun does).  I know I can calculate the position in the sky (kind of), but maybe I’m just doing something wrong.
A. If I understand correctly, you want to search for a situation with a partial moon somewhat above the horizon.  Unfortunately, H-O can't do that directly as you have outlined the problem (yet), but it can do 95% of the job if you are willing to winnow the results (if any) manually after H-O's search.  Here's how:

1.  First do a search for your locatiopn checking the boxes:
"Moon phase between 25 and 50%" and
"Moonset between -60 minutes before and 240 minutes after sunset"  (- 60 to get 60 min after)
and any other check boxes you need

to get your (sample) results:

> Heavenly-Opportunity (V3.3.2) search performed on 10/13/2009 for:
> Selected place name = CO Fort Collins
>    Latitude =  40.58333
>    Longitude = -105.0833
>    Time Zone = Mountain (-105°)
>    Height above horizon =  0 ft.
>    Azimuth adjusted for a Magnetic Declination of 9.9°
>
> Search Criteria:
>    Dates between 10/13/2009 to 10/13/2010
>    Moon phase between 25 and 50%
>    Moonset between -60 minutes before and 240 minutes after sunset
>
>                ---------Sun-----------   -------------Moon---------------
> Day   Date      Rise  Az°    Set   Az°    Rise  Az°    Set   Az°   Phase%
> --- --------   ------ ---   ------ ---   ------ ---   ------ ---   ------
> Fri 10/23/09   07:21a  95   06:08p 245   12:53p 114   10:08p 227    29.5
> Thu 06/17/10   05:29a  48   08:33p 292   11:30a  74   12:19a 262    34.2
> Fri 07/16/10   05:43a  51   08:29p 289   11:42a  88   11:18p 249    31.8
> Sat 07/17/10   05:44a  51   08:29p 289   12:54p  95   11:47p 242    42.9
> Sat 08/14/10   06:10a  60   08:00p 280   11:51a 100   10:21p 238    28.8
> Sun 08/15/10   06:11a  61   07:58p 279   01:03p 106   10:58p 232    39.6
> Sun 09/12/10   06:38a  74   07:15p 266   11:55a 109   09:36p 230    25.0
> Mon 09/13/10   06:39a  74   07:13p 266   01:03p 112   10:24p 227    35.1
> Tue 10/12/10   07:08a  89   06:25p 251   12:46p 113   10:05p 228    29.5
>
>     9 days match all search criteria.


2.  Then throw out any dates that show the event after 11 pm, like 6/17.
3.  Then, check the Daily Details to confirm the desired elevation at the time of the shoot.  For example, if you look at 10/23/09 (the first match in the list that occurs before 11 pm), you can confirm that the moon is in your desired elevation window about 1 hour after sunset.

Q.  I am a registered user of Heavenly-Opportunity.  I am planning on upgrading to Windows 7, 64 bit system.  Are there any issues with installing Heavenly-Opportunity on the 64 bit Windows 7?
A. Yes.  This from a user: "I’m happy to report that H-O seems to run just fine in Windows 7 64-bit. As noted on you web page, installation involves repeatedly confirming that you want to keep you current dll files rather than replace them with the older ones that came with the package."

Q.  I received your CD and have loaded the program.  Everything is working well except that I have not been able to do anything of significance with the password file.  I have tried dropping it in the Heavenly-Opportunity folder but I still get the pop up box asking me if I have registered.  As long as nothing happens to the program, I don't mind answering the question each time I close it. 
A.  If you are still getting the 'registration' message, it means that H-O cannot find and read the password file in the folder from which the application was launched.  You say that the file is there, so what might explain the apparent discrepancy?  Could it be that you somehow installed H-O in two different places, putting the password file in one but running out of the other?  That's the only explanation I can come up with, but there certainly could be others.  I would check your installation folder one more time and double check that file is indeed there and spelled correctly.  This must be resolved; if it is not, H-O will quit working after about a month, so please get back to me if you still have problems.

Q.  I have Windows 7.  What do I need to do to insert the passwork file?
A.  I received the following problem description from a user.  I will update his description when I know more.  "... what I did is partially affected by some things I did when I first got the computer, which I won't be able to describe exactly. But here's what I can say:  Windows 7 declares some folder "off-limits" and denies access to them by the user, even if the user is an Administrator. This includes C:\Program Files (x86), which is the folder that contains the Heavenly-Opportunity folder after installation. When attempting to save the 'password' file in that folder, the user is likely to get a message saying "access is denied".
    To gain access, the user needs to be granted permission to write to that folder. If the user's profile on that computer is an "Administrator" account type, this should be possible. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the Heavenly-Opportunity folder within the Program Files (x86) folder, right click on it and choose Properties. On the Security tab, the list of groups and users and the current permissions for each are shown. Highlight the user's profile name (or it may only have the Users group) to see the current permissions. If Write is not included, click the Edit button and another dialog box will open, which will also include the list of users and a list of check boxes for each type of permission. Highlight the user's profile (or Users) and click the check box next to the Write permission (or one can simply check the Full Control permission, which automatically includes Write). press OK to back out of the dialog boxes. It should now be possible to save the Thank.You file in the folder.  If that doesn't work, or if Write permission appears to be already granted, or if the permissions list is grayed out, I think this can be overcome by using the Advanced button. But I don't know enough about all the implications of that, so I'm not going to make any recommendations."  (Editor's note: I don't think this needs to be quite as complicated as this user makes it sound.)

    Let me also say that I have tried using Windows 7 only just a bit.  It does seem to keep the casual user from mucking about anywhere you might wish.  I found that to install H-O, I had to unzip the EXE file a folder of my choosing (3 files) and then run setup from there.  Awkward, but no big deal as you can clean up the 3 files when you are done.  Then, during installation, you have to manually Keep any newer files you may have -- quite a lot of them -- as there seems to be no Keep All button.  Finally, the installation reports an error registering a DLL, but just say Ignore.  Works for me.  You expert users out there, please report on your experiences and the best way to do things under Windows 7.  Also, make sure you always have the latest Windows updates and disable any antivirus software.  All the best.  jb

Q.  What is the "blue hour" and how can I use Heavenly-Opportunity to help me take photos during this time?
A.  I am not well versed in Blue Hour photography.  I have seen it mentioned in at least one photo magazine and have visited the website, http://bluhour.com/ and associated blog -- certainly worth a look. However, I have seen no quantitative description precisely defining the time window, not that this matters greatly.  From what I gather, the Blue Hour roughly corresponds to the last part of nautical twilight and the first part of civil twilight in the morning, vice versa in the evening.  Though not an "hour" per se, it is the time when the sky is just light enough to give it color (blue!) and shed sufficient light on foreground subjects for a decent low-contrast photo.  There is no doubt that many Blue Hour photos are great.  I would welcome any user thoughts on this special twilight issue.

Q.  As the earth's magnetic declination slowly changes over the years, how is that handled by the program, or is it?
A.  Yes, H-O accounts for the small changes in magnetic declination from year to year in two different ways.  First, the program knows what year you are making projections for, and the year factors into the internal calculations.  Second, every few years, the federal agency that keeps tabs on the changing earth's magnetic declination issues a new "coefficient file" that I make available on the web as a minor update.  I send out a broadcast email message notifying current users of this update.  Note that the differences from one coefficient file to another rarely amount to more than a degree, but if you are into exactness, and if you use that feature of the program, it will be there for you.

Q.  I live in the Netherlands.  I can change the lat/long for my location and the program works well for me, but every time I start H-O up again, or manually try to open a favorite HOP file I have saved, I get an error: 380 (Invalid Property Value).  What can I do?
A.  Thank you for bringing this problem to my attention.  This problem arises because H-O does not recognize that your Windows operating system has been set to a regional date/time/number format other than English (United States).  I believe the following procedure will work around the problem.  Use the Windows Start button to go to the Control Panel.  Choose Regional and Language Options.  Note your setting in the drop down box, and then choose English (United States) and press the Apply button followed by OK.  Run H-O and all should be well.  Then be sure to reset your Regional and Language option to your own regional setting when you are done lest some other of your programs misbehave!

Q.  I tried your software here in Utah, but it doesn’t get the times correct and it is off on the azimuth. I have nice compass and have set the correct declination. Could it be that my problem is because of the mountains; it seems like if there are mountains in front then that changes everything. Are your times and directions based off of sea level? Trying to figure out how to get this to be accurate. Do you have to take in consideration your altitude, mountains, etc?
A. 
NOTE: It has come to my attention that there is a bug in H-O's declination calculations that has apparently been there for some time.  See below for more and workarounds.

I have used it in your state several times myself without problems.  That said, you are absolutely correct that mountains can greatly influence the actual times of sun/moon rise/set, as well as the azimuth of those events.  This is all explained in the on-line documentation.  In addition, there may be many localized phenomena that interfere with magnetic declination, such as ore deposits, geological faults, power lines, etc.

One question and three suggestions.  You said that you have set your compass to compensate for local declination.  If you did that, did you also uncheck H-O's default "Adjust for magnetic declination"?  In other words, if you adjust your compass, you do not want H-O to further 'correct' the azimuth, and vice-versa, if you do not adjust your compass, then let H-O do it for you.

The first suggestion is to check some of the readily available websites for rise/set and see if they agree with H-O or not.  Perhaps there is some issue I am unaware of.  The second is, if it is solely mountains that are causing the problem you describe, you can examine H-O's View | Daily Details and see if the different times/locations explain what you are seeing.  The third suggestion builds on the second.  Check out Glen Randall's article here that gets even more detailed on using H-O in concert with The Programmer's Ephemeris (with a Utah photo!).

[Note: This user's problem was solved by unchecking the declination check box.]

Q.  Do you have any suggestions on how to get the proper exposure on my moon shots?  I want to see the moon's texture, not just record a white blob, and that seems difficult for me.
A.  To be honest, with digital readouts these days, I usually just use trial and error.  But I recently came across a rule of thumb in Outdoor Photographer (March 2012) that recommended taking the reciprocal of your ISO at f/8.  For example, if your ISO is set to 400, start with your aperture at f/8 and your shutter speed at 1/400 sec, or equivalent combinations.  Then, after poking around on the web, I found a potentially useful site at the Open Photographic Society web site.  It is far more sophisticated and is perhaps more accurate.  Regardless, still bracket, bracket, bracket!

I can also recommend a 2014 book called Night Sky: A Field Guide for Shooting After Dark by Jennifer Wu and James Martin.  It is full of practical experience and advice.


Q.  I think I have found a bug in Heavenly-Opportunity; if I search for moonrises between 9 pm and 5 am, I get a list of every moon rise EXCEPT those during that time.
A.  You are correct.  H-O never anticipated searching across a midnight “boundary”.  The program always searches from the earliest time in one day to the latest time in that same day regardless of how those times have been entered.  In other words, if your criterion reads “Moonrise between 9 pm and 5 am”, the program actually searches between 5 am and 9 pm within the same day.  So, if you want all the moonrises between 9 pm and 5 am, you will need to do two searches, one from 9 pm to 11:59 pm, and another from 12 am to 5 am.


Q.  I hear that Heavenly-Opportunity’s magnetic declination needs to be updated in 2015 for greater accuracy.  How do I do that?
A.
  NOTE: It has come to my attention that there is a bug in H-O's declination calculations that has apparently been there for some time.  This bug results in inaccurate declinations ranging up to several degrees depending on the location.  I started to fix this bug, but have run into seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Long story short, my old and no-longer-supported compiler has been corrupted on my old XP machine (which itself was a pain to resuscitate).  Frankly, it is not worth it to me to attempt to fix this as it would require substantial effort and there are other products out there which can do the trick.  Also I'd rather be out taking photos!  So what I'm really saying is that I am no longer supporting bug fixes to H-O, and I will not be automatically distributing the newly released declination coefficients as they probably will not improve the program's accuracy.  You can calculate the latest official declinations online at http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/geomag-web/, or via downloadable program at http://ngdc.noaa.gov/geomag/WMM/wmm_gdownload.shtml. 

If you do wish to try the new 2015 coefficients in H-O, you may do so and, who knows, they will probably not be far off -- depending on your location.  Please read on:

Those of you who use the “Adjust for magnetic declination” feature in Heavenly-Opportunity may be interested in a recent update to what’s called the World Magnetic Model released by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and others.  Because the earth’s magnetic field changes slowly through time, periodic updates are required to maintain the greatest degree of accuracy in how much compass readings deviate from true north across the earth’s surface.  NGA updates the coefficients necessary to calculate the world-wide declination estimates every five years and I am making that update available for you.  If you do not use H-O’s declination feature, you may ignore these instructions. (For what it’s worth, I have not found that this update makes much difference for my location in Colorado, but I haven’t tested it extensively.  Chances are the update makes more difference at higher latitudes and certainly will vary by longitude too.)

Below are four easy steps you should take to update Heavenly-Opportunity on your computer.  Please note that there are multiple ways to do this update, and some of you may have your computers set up in ways that I cannot anticipate, but the method below should be straightforward for most people, perhaps requiring only minor adaptations:
Step 1.  Download the new coefficient file “WMM2015.cof” that is in a ZIP file from here and extract it first to your Desktop, then move it to your Heavenly-Opportunity program folder, usually C:\Program Files (x86)\HeavenlyOpportunity (or C:\Program Files\HeavenlyOpportunity on a 32-bit system).  If asked for administrator permission, just Continue to do so.

Step 2.  Rename your previous coefficient file in that folder from “Wmm.cof” to “Wmm2010.cof”.  You may be asked for administrator permission to rename files.  If so, do so.  Case does not matter.

Step 3.  Rename your new coefficient file from “WMM2015” to “WMM.cof”.

Step 4.  Test to make sure that H-O runs properly with and without the “Adjust for magnetic declination” feature selected. If you find a problem, please double check the steps you have taken or seek help from a knowledgeable Windows user.
That should do it!  However, I also need to tell you that I probably will no longer distribute Heavenly-Opportunity in 2020 when the next update is scheduled.  I am ready to retire this hobby.  So those of you interested in maintaining the highest accuracy may wish to follow these additional steps:
Step 5.  Send an email to geomag.models@noaa.gov and ask to be notified when the next update to the World Magnetic Model is available.

Step 6.  When you are notified of an update, presumably towards the end of 2019, you may download the update from the web address they will supply.  You need be concerned only with the coefficient file (.COF) and nothing more, but you may need to extract the COF file from a larger collection of files.

Step 7.  Follow Steps 1-3 as outlined above.

Step 8.  Finally, using a text editor (not a word processor) such as Notepad, replace the last two lines in the new “Wmm.cof” file with the last two lines in your previous coefficient file (now “Wmm2015.cof”).  [Don’t ask me why; I have forgotten J]

Step 9.  Test the program as before

Step 10.  File these instructions away for next time.
Should you be interested, you may learn more about our changing magnetic field starting at  http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/geomag/WMM/DoDWMM.shtmll, but be forewarned that it is rather complicated stuff.

 


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Page last updated 1/30/2015 by jb