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VStar Software Development

Citizen Sky is now officially permanent part of the AAVSO. In the coming weeks we will be moving additional content to the AAVSO site and freezing this site as an archive of the 1st three years of the project. Please visit the new landing page for future updates.

Citizen Sky

Welcome to the VStar Software Development Team! 

VStar is a multi-platform, easy-to-use variable star data visualization and analysis tool. Data for a star can be read from a file or AAVSO database and plotted on a light curve along with mean data and error bars. Phase plots can be created and basic period search functions can be performed.

I'm David Benn (pictured on right at CitizenSky in August 2009), the lead developer of VStar in collaboration with the fine folks at AAVSO. I wrote a blog entry that provides background context and some details about VStar.

Michael Umbricht (pictured at left) has played a key role in the early testing of VStar. He wrote this Forum post soon after the CitizenSky workshop.

VStar is still very much a work in progress but is being implemented in phases, as described in my blog post above.

Contributions by developers, testers, technical writers, user interface designers, and artists (e.g. About Box images) are encouraged. One of the most underestimated aspects of software projects tends to be effort required in testing, so please feel free to volunteer to test VStar. The more platforms we test on, the better: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris.

You must be logged in to the website to download VStar. Log In now.

VStar in Java 1.6

Exciting new developments in VStar! David has begun using Java 1.6 and with this move comes the ability to easily add more useful functionality. (See David's earlier post for more on why we decided to make this move.) Because of this change, please delete any old versions of the vstar.jnlp file you may have lying around and get a new one by clicking on the "Download VStar Now" button.

Anyone who is still using Java 1.5 won't be able to use VStar until you upgrade, but based on the results of our earlier survey, this should not affect many of you. We certainly hope that you will be able to get Java 1.6 and stay with us and VStar continues to evolve!

You can read about the latest changes to VStar in this ChangeLog.Read more

VStar Version 2.0 Beta Launched!

Just what you all have been waiting for! David has been working hard fixing things and making improvements to VStar which I am sure you will like. If you haven't had a chance to try using VStar yet or haven't used it in awhile, then by all means do so. Its fun! We also would appreciate your helpful comments and reports of any bugs you may encounter. My favorite thing about this new version is the "tabbed panes" instead of radio buttons which you can use to switch views between the observations data, means, and the lists. Other changes are summarized in the ChangeLog which I have attached to this post.Read more

VStar: a move to Java 1.6?

Hi all

For future VStar versions, I want to consider making the minimum Java Runtime version 1.6 rather than 1.5. One big reason is the table sort and search functionality it adds. Other reasons relate to performance, general bug fixes and improvements. Java 1.6 is not new, and was released in late 2006 and has had a number of updates since then. Java 1.7 is due out later this year.

What I would like to find out is if users or potential users would be unable to run VStar if the switch to 1.6 was made. The obvious concerns are for pre-Windows XP (e.g. Win98) and pre-Leopard Mac OS X.

Early releases of Java 1.6 are available for Windows 98 and I have been running Java 1.6 on a test installation of Windows 98.

I have Leopard on an Intel MacBook and a PowerPC Mac mini running Java 1.6. For earlier Mac OS X versions, there's, but only for Intel not PowerPC Macs. Read more

VStar Observation Details dialog usage question

Hi all

After some recent discussion between myself, Arne, and Aaron re: this SourceForge tracker item:

titled "Obs Detail dialog should open over selected datapoint", your input is sought. What we're interested in is how you use the Observation Details dialogs (invoked by left-clicking on a plot datapoint). For example, do you normally just have one observation detail dialog open, and close it before opening another? Or do you have multiple observation detail dialogs open side-by-side?

Please also read over the tracker content and provide feedback as a reply to this post.


DavidRead more

VStar NACAA 2010 workshop summary

Aaron (and all), thanks for your your congrats.

On Friday (April 2) I ran a successful half-day VStar workshop at the National
Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers in Canberra (NACAA 2010):

The detailed workshop agenda can be found here:

In attendance were 15 Australian Amateur Astronomers, many with considerable
variable star observation and analysis experience.

VStar received a very positive reception and the feedback from the participants
was invaluable. Numerous SourceForge tracker entries have been added or updated
as a result of feedback from the workshop:

I was also pleased with the attendance numbers given that the other concurrent
workshop was Anthony Wesley's "Processing Techniques for Planetary Imaging": more


Congrats on the release everyone! I just made a post on the AAVSO Discussion Group promoting it. You can read it here: Read more

VStar Version 1.0 (Beta) just launched!

Thanks to an incredible effort by David, a new version of VStar has just been launched with lots more interesting features and some basic data analysis capability. In fact, we are so happy with this version, that VStar is soon going to be linked directly from the "Data" tab at the top of each page on the Citizen Sky site. Since this should open up VStar to a much wider audience, it would be great if you all, as VStar Team members could give it a good hard test in the next day or so and report any problems or bugs you may find in the usual way.

Way to go, David!Read more

Talks at Australian meetings (ASSA, NACAA)

I just wrote this brief blog post about a talk I gave in February about VStar, Citizen Sky, and Eps Aur to about 100 members of the Astronomical Society of South Australia (, and upcoming sessions (next week) at the National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers ( in Canberra: more

VStar Download fixed (for real this time)

The VStar Download feature should now be working correctly. My apologies for the trouble and thanks for your patience. Download and try out the latest version David talked about in his message dated February 2 - it's very cool! - and post your comments here.

New VStar version change log

Hi all

Thanks to Elizabeth for taking on the latest WebStart release!

Please see the change log for details of what has changed and what is new in this release:

We're getting closer to a formal release candidate. More as it happens.

If you're keen to contribute towards coding, test (unit or GUI-level), or some other aspect of the project, just send a team message or via my Citizen Sky contact page.


DavidRead more

New Version of VStar Available

A new version of VStar is available for you to try, thanks to David's hard work! Click on the "Download VStar Now" button, try it out, and let us know what you think.

VStar Download Working Again

The VStar Download Now feature is working again. Thanks for your patience while we fixed things. Happy downloading!

VStar download temporarily not working

The VStar Download Now feature is not working at the moment - we are very sorry for the inconvenience! We are working on it and will have it back up and working just as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

The Data Deluge

Recently there was a very interesting book review in the NY Times called A Deluge of Data Shapes a New Era in Computing. It describes the challenges of interpreting the massive amounts of information that are now becoming available in the sciences due to improved technology.Read more

VStar gets a workout

I presented a seminar on Dec. 3rd for a group of teachers from the local public schools at the Ladd Observatory. It was a hands-on workshop that involved the participants in visual and CCD observing of variable stars. There is a general description in the
 Outreach Activities forum. In the past couple of weeks I've been using VStar extensively for planning observations, analyzing data and teaching. I'd like to report here on my use of VStar in preparation for and during the program.Read more

VStar feedback forum 2

As I announced in the project forum we have a new version of VStar ready for testing. There have been some important fixes that were applied. Each time that you click on the Download button on the Team page it will check to make sure you have the latest version, and download a newer one if there is an update available. Given that we have a new version, I've started this new feedback forum. I think we've addressed most of the questions and trouble that was reported in the first topic, but feel free to add here if there are issues that are outstanding. As always, we welcome your comments, questions and would very much like to hear your experience using VStar.

64x64 & 32x32 Pixels Icons!!!

I did a few changes to the desktop icons: made them small to get a feel of how they would look in reality 64X64 and 32X32 pixels; got rid of some of the ones no one voted for; and replaced the "S" for a  "V" inside #1 as suggested. Hope you like at least one a lot! Any other ideas are welcome too.

8 VStar Desktop Icons To Vote For


>This file has the newer designs of the Desktop Icons. Shown against 2 backgrounds (light and dark). VOTE NOW!!!!


Suggestions and comments are welcome. Vote!

By the way, all icons involve the letters S and V, but they differ in font (and more obvious details). The stars are fomed with Vs, and the Ss are in the center. Look for them, they are there.
 Read more

VStar icon design

We're looking for some artwork for the icon that appears on the desktop to start VStar. The icon needs to be a jpg or gif that is 64 x 64 pixels in size.

BTW, we're still looking to incorporate the previous designs for the About box in VStar, but we've been busy trying to get the WebStart and some key functions working first.Read more

VStar feedback forum

After you have downloaded VStar and run it, we would like to get feedback on what you think.

Choose New Star from AAVSO Database. Maybe one from the 10 Star Tutorial, or enter something like "P Cyg" (the current AAVSO Variable Star of the Season) for Other Star. Click on a datapoint in the graph to see the details. Try Change Series to select data from a different filter band. Drag the mouse on the chart to zoom in on a selection. Try out the different features and let us know if you have any problems, suggestions for improvement or just general comments on your experience using VStar.

The goal is to make VStar easy to use and to provide you with a tool for seeing how variable stars change over time. We'd like to know your impressions on how it looks and works. Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think!Read more

VStar Software Development

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