Install OrbFit on My Mac

So far I have not yet fully successful with the software. But the problem may well be intrinsic in the codes, rather than mistakes during my installation. I have reported a bug to the OrbFit consortium. But anyway I think I need to record my steps of installing it, which may benefit me in the future if I want to reinstall the software.

Step 1: Download the software from the website and unzip it.

Step 2: Change the terminal to tcsh.

Step 3: Type config -O gfortran, Since I’m using gfortran. Other modes will flag -static which leads to errors of ld: library not found for -lcrt0.o.

Step 4: Type make. It should take seconds to finish.

Step 5: Download ASCII formatted of JPL DExxx to directory src/jpleph. I downloaded DE431. Edit makefile if necessary.

Step 6: Type make ephemerides. It is then converting the DExxx from ASCII to binary, which takes about 20 sec on my computer. After it completes a file called jpleph will appear.

Step 7: Copy that file to lib under the main directory of OrbFit, or goto that directory by cd ../../lib, and then type ln -s ../src/jpleph/jpleph jpleph to create an alias.

Step 8: Goto the main directory and test the installation:
make tests
where I am confronted with errors about segmentation, with the latest version OrbFit5.0.

Install OrbFit on My Mac









Zodiacal light and me at Joshua Tree National Park. I was observing C/2013 US10. 2015 Dec 13, Canon 5D2, 16-35 mm f2.8 @ 16mm f2.8, ISO 3200, 15-sec exposure.


Weird Function TRIANGULATE in IDL

Time to update my blog again. It’s been more than a year since my last update after all. Today I encountered with a weird error in IDL when trying to improve computation precision of own polar transform image routines. The source was traced back to function TRIANGULATE. So far I really have no idea about why it occurs. The example is as follows:

IDL> theta=dindgen(360L)
IDL> rad=dindgen(500L)
IDL> xpol=rad#cos(theta/1.8d2*!dpi)
IDL> ypol=rad#sin(theta/1.8d2*!dpi)
IDL> triangulate,xpol,ypol,tri
% TRIANGULATE: Points are co-linear, no solution.
% Execution halted at: $MAIN$

However, if I type the following TRIANGULATE works flawlessly:

IDL> xpol=rad#cos(float(theta/1.8d2*!dpi))
IDL> ypol=rad#sin(float(theta/1.8d2*!dpi))
IDL> triangulate,xpol,ypol,tri
IDL> help,tri
TRI             LONG      = Array[3, 358920]

This is really annoying, as I can’t figure out how come co-linearity can be related to float or double precision whatsoever. Not sure if anyone could help this for me, but I just throw this problem here and see if there’s anyone else faced with the same encounter so that we can potentially sigh together…

Weird Function TRIANGULATE in IDL

My Record of Installing IDL, SSW and SSWDB on My New Mac OS X

I got a new laptop Mac OS X from Dave and needed to install IDL, SSW and SSWDB on it. The following are the main steps how I installed it successfully.


Basic Steps of installation of IDL 8.3 on my Mac OS X

1. Download the installation package from the EXELIS.

2. Click on the icon and follow the instructions of the installation wizard.

3. Put the license into the following directory: Applications/exelis/license.

4. The license wizard pops out automatically after the installation completes. Now select the license file in the panel.

5. Now IDL should be successfully launched by double clicking on the workbench icon, however, if you type idl in the terminal, you will be informed that idl: Command not found. Environment has to be set.

6. Type the following commands in the terminal:

vi .tcshrc

7. See if there is the following lines within the file, insert them otherwise.

setenv IDL_DIR /Applications/exelis/idl83
setenv OS darwin.

In Tshell command line, typing idl will now successfully run IDL.


Steps of installation of SSW

1. Fill out and submit the form at

2. Follow the instructions in that website and the links therein.

3. Type sswidl in the terminal, but fails, so insert the following lines into the .tcshrc file:

set path=(/usr/local/bin /sw/bin /sw/sbin /usr/local /usr/local/ssw/gen/mirror /usr/X11R6/bin /Applications/exelis/idl83/bin $path .)
setenv SSW_INSTR "lasco secchi"
setenv SSW ssw
setenv SSWDB sswdb
setenv ssw_quiet 1
source $SSW/gen/setup/setup.ssw
source $SSW/soho/lasco/setup/setup.lasco_envsetenv SSWDB /usr/local/ssw/sswdb

Installation of SSWDB

1. Anyway I am not able to generate a configuration file from, but there is a file called setup.sswdb_upgrade_template in directory of ssw/site/setup. Add lines indicating the packages in need, or, if there are packages already listed in the template, remove the corresponding “#” at the beginning. Root is required:

sudo vi setup.sswdb_upgrade

2. Follow the steps listed at

3. If Perl is installed in a non-default directory, type
ln -s /usr/bin/perl /usr/local/bin/perl
in the terminal.

4.IDL> sswdb_upgrade, /spawn, /passive_ftp

5. Be patient about Step 4, and it took me rather long.

6. Done!

My Record of Installing IDL, SSW and SSWDB on My New Mac OS X