NEO Planner V5.0  -  Revise  -  Explanations

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Program from Dectember, 17 2023 for K87 Dettelbach Vineyard Observatory in Germany:

Copyright: The data comes from official access to web services from MPC, JPL, NASA and ESA,  
whose origins are the tireless measurements of dozens of professional and amateur observatories around the world


The order of the objects is always in ascending order according to R.A. at the time of planning.
When controlling the equipment automatically, attention must be paid to the following:

The observation times (obs.time LT) should ideally be around the transit times (Transit LT) of the objects,
in order to get the best possible images of the objects during the measurement.
In any case, you should keep an eye on the maximum altitude (altitiude), the higher the better.

When observing under increasing or decreasing moonlight around full moon time, two strategies are recommended:

1. During the entire observation time there is a period of negative lunar altitude:
    At your own discretion and experience, increase the group count ( up to double or triple for those objects
    where the position's Moon altitude (Moon alt) is positive.
    Do not change group counts on objects observed during moonless periods in the list.

2. Around the actual full moon time, when the moon is always above the horizon during the night session,
    we recommend increasing the number of groups in the CCD/CMOS settings
    in the "Number of measurements/object for MPC" line. Again, you should double or triple the number. Example 006 or 009.
    In this case, the number of groups is increased when planning from the outset. Changing the sky background value is not recommended.

    Please don't forget to reset the values later.

3. Best observation strategy during the night-session:
    After the revised planning and after starting the observations, you can access a special window in Revise by clicking the 'NEOCP Check' button.
    There you activate the background job 'Background Check (every 5 minutes)'.
    Two new windows then show changes on the NEOCP page of the MPC at regular intervals.
    You can observe these changes and if there is something interesting you stop the background job.
    Then pressing 'NEOCP Check' will update the current and revised plan with new NEOCP data while retaining the revised plan.
    The 'Refeshing Revise' button then updates the Revise and Object Information Windows. Then you can start the background job again.   


Important hint:

    NEO Planner always plans all objects that are in the selected RA area in the Settings Common restrictions
    and in the defined area of the declination in the Settings Object Selection.
    It is the defined range of RA hours west and RA hours east of siderial time.
    NEO Planner then schedules these objects according to the CCD parameters, regardless of altitude.
    This means that objects can also appear in the Revise Window with the Altitude displayed in red, mostly objects at the end of the planning.
    NEO Planner does not automatically intend to exclude objects below the allowed altitude,
    but indicates this with red color in the Altitude column in the Revise Window. Because such objects can be quite interesting.
    You can now revise the displayed list and, for example, by deleting individual objects or by moving objects
or by increasing group values on previous objects you can achieve that all objects on the list in the Altitude column are displayed in green.
    Then observing below the permitted altitude should not happen in NINA or ACP.


Siderial time RA at 00 LT and true midnight:     

The sidereal time is a central and by no means one of the most important parameters of NEO Planner.

The magic formula is: (Special design for NEO Planner by Father Christoph Gerhard (K74)):

Siderial time (decimal) = 6.625 + 0.06570982 * (Current date - '2019-01-01' + 1) + geographical longitude / 15 + 1.002738 * (midnight UT (decimal))

Then the conversion into hours and minutes takes place.
The formula shows that longitude plays an important role, which enables NEO Planner to be used in all regions of the world.

The sidereal time in combination of RA object is the criterion for reliably determining NO GO areas,
since the transit times of objects through the meridian have to be taken into account, especially with German mounts.
In addition, the sidereal time helps to calculate the correct order of the objects according to RA.

Both the sidereal time and true midnight UT is saved with every planning in the SiderialTime.txt file in the <Daily Planning> folder (see File Structure settings).

IAU Observatory Code:      

A guide for getting an IAU observatory code you find here: Guide to Minor Body Astrometry (

List of observatory codes: List of observatory codes - Wikipedia


The calculated local starting time of the planning is determined from various sources.
The basis is the daily loading of current astronomical data of a location from,
which takes place automatically when NEO Planner is started. See also: GEO Settings.
The offset hours and minutes that were specified in the Common Restrictions settings are added or subtracted from the determined local sunset and sunrise times.

The start and end times of the planning can only be reliably calculated in this way,
since automatically determined twilight times are not suitable for depicting the observation slots obtained from empirical values.
Only the observer himself can determine when the observation should begin after sunset. This depends on the experience of the observer himself.

Light conditions on/off:

Display of the light conditions via a list box.
At higher latitudes in the hemispheres, reduced data is shown around the time of the summer solstice and missing astronomical time.

Observation slot start - end:

The observation period in local time of the coming night.

The basis is the daily loading of current astronomical data of a location from,
which takes place automatically when NEO Planner is started. See also: GEO Settings.
The offset hours and minutes that were specified in the Common Restrictions settings are added or subtracted from the determined local sunset and sunrise times.

Save list::

On the one hand, the entire window is saved as .jpg in the archive folder.
In addition, the content of the list display is saved both in .txt and .csv files  for further use (see File Structure settings).
Additional backup of the Revise Window as an .HTM file, if allowed in the Privacy.
Now both the Revise Window and the Object Information Window can be saved as an HTM file on the NEO Planner Server and accessed
or linked for free use on the Internet via any browser.

new start LT:

Here you can enter the start time of the first object manually if it should deviate from the suggested start time.
By pressing the >Smart execute planning< button next to it, a short re-planning takes place with the specified start time.

Execute smart planning:

The schedule is run again with the specified start time on the left, but significantly reduced.
There is no re-determination of the objects, only a correction of the suggested observation times.
The positions of the objects are also adjusted.
In addition, the XML and JSON data for N.I.N.A import, ACP and .csv files are reissued in the archive folder for further use there.
Useful times for smart planning are between the current nightly hours.

We have also a significant performance improvement in the revise window. The revision of the planning is now faster and takes place without recalculation.
The planning is only completed by pressing the Execute smart Planning button. A red button indicates that planning still needs to be done.

Marking Positions:

By marking positions you can perform various actions such as C-copy, M-move, DEL-delete, G-adjust stack groups, E-ephemeris details, S-scout or M-MPC details.

The local observation times of the following objects can be moved forward between 0 and 600 minutes by right-clicking.
These changes are marked by a colored display of the observation time LT. Red means: Execute smart planning is pending, green means: rescheduled.
Zero is also allowed for undo.

S=Execute Search:

Pressing 'S' on an object line takes you to the Execute Search Window.
There the object position is displayed centrally with a star background at the time of recording and the track length of the recording.
This allows one to control the path of the object taking into account the star field and the FoV of the equipment.

Controlling whether the start position or center position of the object in Execute Search is displayed in the center of the starmap picturebox
can be done in the Execute Planning Window
with the <Center Position> checkbox.

W=Asteroid Watch:

Asteroid Watch Eyes on Asteroids - Home - NASA/JPL






Neo Planner calculates observation times in R.A. order of currently visible comets in green according to the official publication of the MPC
and additionally the most recently observed comets from CometasObs.
The reason for including the CometasObs observations lies in the sometimes considerable delay of the MPC in the publication of the last observations.

In addition, all NEOCP objects in red that can be observed according to the parameter settings are displayed.

In addition, visible NEOs in blue are included that have not yet been numbered, i.e. have a provisional number.

Objects with special object classes are displayed in black.

Observation date and time in UT:

The optimal observation times of the objects are first calculated based on their meridian passage and thus the sequence is determined.
The observation time in UT is then calculated according to the calculated exposure times of all recordings.

RA and Dec:

The indicated position in R.A. and Dec. corresponds to the calculated Obs.time.
The position is not determined from the MPC NEOCP, but from the Scout Ephemeris page with an accuracy of about 1 minute.

Notice: Experience has shown that Scout delivers better position results, especially with fast runners.
However, NEO Planner cannot provide exactly the same positions as shown on the website.
The reason for this lies in the API method that NEO Planner uses to access the Scout's data.
Scout calculates the positions of the NEOCP objects on the website in a noticeable amount of time by averaging thousands of orbit calculations.
NEO Planner can compensate for this performance disadvantage by calling the API interface with a request of 30 orbits.
This results in slight deviations from the display on the Scout website, which is rather insignificant in practice.


The altitude corresponds to the height of the object above the horizon at the time of the displayed observation time.

Moon Dis Alt:

The displays of the moon phase, the distance between the moon and the object in degrees and altitude of the Moon
relate to the observation time and come from the Ephemeris Scout from JPL.




Comets: Average Vmag of the last 10 observations found in the MPC Database.
                If the MPC-Vmag is more than 0.5 mag brighter than the average Vmag, the MPC Vmag ist displayed and used for the calculation of the exposure time.

NEOs:   Average Vmag of the last 10 observations.
               If the MPC-Vmag is more than 0.5 mag brighter than the average Vmag, the MPC Vmag ist displayed and used for the calculation of the exposure time.
               If the MPC-Vmag is 1.0 mag weaker than the average Vmag, than the MPC Vmag ist displayed and used for the calculation of the exposure time.

NEOCP objects: Vmag of the Scout Query

"/min and PA:

The displays for arcsec / minute (s / min) and position angle (PA) refer to the observation time and come from JPL's Ephemeris Scout.

dRA und dDec:

Display of the dRA and dDec proper motion of NEOCP objects to enable the proper movement in RA and Dec for direct tracking of the objects.


A comprehensive description of the calculation of the exposure time can be found on the settings parameter for the sky background on the page for CCD parameters.
In addition to the exposure time in seconds, Revise also displays the total exposure time (seconds * number of images).

No. images:

The number of images is calculated automatically by multiplying the number of groups  and images / group.
Notes on including Airmass and Lunar Sky Background in calculating the total number of images per object are also displayed:

A means: Airmass was taken into account for all objects according to Horizons API.     
L means: Lunar sky background
was taken into account for all objects according to Horizons API.

Note: Airmass A and lunar sky background L are only taken into account under the following conditions:
          Object altitude > 0 and altitude > minimum altitude

No. groups: (stacks)

The group value basically means how many measurements for each single object should be sent to the MPC.
After planning, you can increase this value
for each object in the Revise Window if you want. To do this, press the G key on the position line.

A comprehensive description of the number of groups can be found on the settings parameter for the sky background on the page for CCD parameters.

In the case of a group value of <4, the following applies:

Neo Planner uses the entered value from the settings at speeds of the object greater than 3 arcsec / minute.
At speeds less than 3 arcsec / min. the value is multiplied by 2, at speeds less than 1 arcsec / min. the value is multiplied by 3 and at speeds less than 0.1 by 5.


Images / group:

A comprehensive description of the calculation of the images per group can be found on the settings parameter for the sky background on the page for CCD parameters

Transit LT:

Transit of the object thru the Meridian in local time, if the buffer time is zero in the NO-GO settings.

Exception: Buffer time in the NO GO Area settings
If the buffer time is greater than zero in the NO-GO settings, "Best LT" is displayed as the heading.
But the buffer time in R.A. Hours before the meridian transit is also considered, so that there is enough time to photograph the object before the meridian transit.
When displaying the transit time in the Revise Window, this hourly value is already subtracted from the transit time of the object.

Important NOTE:

Because of the one-time calculation of the transit times, it is highly recommended to enter only realistic selections for the planning
of the upcoming night session during Execute Planning.
If the planning calculates objects beyond the next morning, there is a risk that the transit times will be displayed incorrectly.

The user is responsible for using the plan data displayed.

obs. time:

Computed time of observation in local time zone.

The local observation times of the following objects can be moved forward between 0 and 600 minutes by right-clicking the position.
These changes are marked by a colored display of the observation time LT. Red means: Execute smart planning is pending, green means: rescheduled.


W = at the suggested time there is a real risk that the object will cross the meridian.
W in blue color means: The object is already west of the meridian at the start time of observation.
W in velvet green color means: The object is still east of the meridian at the start time of observation,
     but will cross the meridian in the course of the observation.
     In this case, you should also check the duration of observation of the object.
     If the object is more than an hour west of the transit time during recording, the W indicator will be displayed in blue.

F  The object was not found on the Scout page of the JPL, possibly a nonexistent object.
     On the other hand, this can mean that the object has been kicked out of the NEOCP,
     either because the object has now received a provisional number (publication of a M.P.E.C),
     or the object type has changed (e.g. Main Belt asteroid) or Scout just doesn't provide any data at NEOCP.

T = The path of an object is longer than the allowed maximum length of a recording series.
 The automatic splitting of positions no longer occurs at altitudes below the minimum altitude.

M = The path of the object is fully mapped in the FoV by using the center position of the track.

S = Note in NEOCP. i.e. S = satellite.  Other notes may also be used on the NEOCP, these will then also be displayed.

Maximum Distance:

Maximum path of an object from the center of the image to the edge during a series of exposures.
This value is always displayed here from the center of the image, regardless of the starting position of the object.

If <Center Position> in Execute Planning is selected, the length of the permitted object path is adapted to the start position.
Detailled informations on: CCD Parameters

Object Trail:

The path length of an object through the FoV is calculated based on the movement of the object in arcsec/min, its position angle,
the exposure times including download load times and the number of exposures per series.
Detailled informations on: CCD Parameters


In column Min/gr. the necessary minutes for a single group / stack are now displayed, according to the camera resolution and s/min. Object.
If the movement of the object is less than the resolution of the camera and at the same time the exposure time per group in the planning
is less than the required exposure time
according to s/min, then the columns Groups and Min/gr. displayed in red, otherwise green.
Thus, if you want, you can achieve the required distance depending on the CCD resolution by manually increasing the groups per object
or splitting them into several positions and adjusting the groups.


With each updated planning, the arcs of NEO and NEOCP objects are displayed in days (d), hours (h) and minutes (m).

Air mass:

When one of the checkboxes on airmass is activated, the relative airmass of the location is taken into account
when calculating the number of images per group/stack.

Detailed information about airmass can be found here.

Moon SB:

When observing objects and the sun is in astronomical twilight, Horizons' Lunar Sky Background #48 can be taken into account when calculating
the necessary number of exposures for a single measurement.
If the sun is outside astronomical twilight at the time of recording and the moon is above the horizon at the time of observation,
the value "n.a." displayed in red.

In this case, you should intervene manually according to experience according to the information in the "Moon Dist Alt" column.
Depending on the phase of the moon you can see the number of groups in column ''
Increase this value, e.g. at quarter moon by factor 1.5, half moon by 2, three quarter moon by 3 and around the full moon by 4.

Detailed information about Lunar Sky Background be found here.





All changes are reversed and the original planning is restored.

Object information:

Displays a window with special information about the objects such as number of previous observations, date and observatory of the last observation,
type of object, orbit element data or flyby data.

Ephemeris links:

By pressing the E key in a line of an objects, you get a display of ephemeris to the minute, which can be selected up to a period of 8 hours.
There you can save the ephemeris with SAVE. The Ephemeris list button then points to a website from which you can call up
all the ephemeris of the planning from any PC.

NEOCP Check:

The NEOCP Check function enables the planning to be updated quickly, including the current NEOCP display.
It is checked whether there are updates for individual NEOCP objects,
whether these have been deleted or an M.P.E.C. publication took place.
If new provisional numbers are assigned, these will be determined and displayed.



Copyright: The author of NEO Planner and all sites of this web is Bernhard Haeusler, Dettelbach, Germany, all rights reserved