The beginning of GSoC

By Eleftheria Chatziargyriou

Hello everyone, I'm Eleftheria and this summer I'll be working with poliastro under Open Astronomy as part of GSoC 2019. I'm hoping this blog will prove to be interesting to those who are interested in poliastro or simply a source of inspiration to those looking for a way to get their feet wet with open source.

The beginning of a journey

After forking poliastro, I immediately dived in and tried to make sense of the codebase. Fortunately, poliastro is extensively documented so the learning curve wasn't as steep as I expected. After getting familiar with the project structure, I started browsing the open issues to find ways to make myself useful. What caught my attention was the ongoing process of adding visualization features to poliastro, which would make the library more accessible to professionals and beginners alike.

It should be noted that poliastro does provide a way to easily create both 2D and 3D plots. However, while matplotlib and plotly excell at data visualization, neither of them are really suitable for this particular task.

Cesium to the rescue

One of the project ideas was to create an application who could extract orbitary data with the help of poliastro and visualize it with Cesium. While I've heard of Cesium before, as it is arguably one of the most well-known javascript libraries (and is also open source!), I didn't know just how extensive its functionality is.

I immediately started looking at similar projects both for inspiration and in order to get a sense of what can be achieved on the tecnhical side. I was pleasantly surprised by a large selection of demos, some of which were particulary relevant to poliastro.

Summer is coming

So what is there to be done during the summer? Well, fortunately far more that I initially expected. I currently have a working, albeit basic version of the project which allows the users to define Earth-based sattelites and visualize their trajectories, but when it comes to additional features, sky's the limit.

Some of the features I plan to tackle first are:

  • Add communication satellites and ground stations and visualize their line of sight.
  • Add a groundtrack plotter capabilities (hopefully following Jorge's work) that will also work with Cesium's 2D view
  • Implement planetary orbits

I'm really excited to start working on the project and hope for an exciting and productive summer!