Humans have always been fascinated with the stars. In fact, the oldest image of a star pattern was carved on mammoth ivory. It was discovered in 1979 inside the Geißenklösterle cave in the Swabian Alps of south-western Germany and is believed to be about 32,500 years old.
When it comes to the oldest star charts, the ones that can be seen on the ceiling of the Japanese Kitora Tomb and the Chinese Dunhuang manuscript star chart are famous.
Whether you’re an amateur astronomer who has just bought a new telescope or just love looking at the stars, you need a trusty star chart. Since the advent of technology, paper maps are now replaced with mobile apps. Here are 5 of the best stargazing applications that you can use to view upcoming astronomical events.
First in the list is none other than the NASA app itself. It’s not only a stargazing app per se but it also offers a variety of features that any space lover would enjoy. You can access a huge collection of NASA content using the app right on your smartphone.
With the app, you can see images and videos of space that are updated daily to keep you on the loop. Users can also have a live view of the Earth from the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) on the ISS.
Not only that, you can learn information about the latest NASA missions, launch dates, and even a dedicated countdown clock. It also has a NASA TV that shows coverage of space events in real time.
One of its best features is its International Space Station and other NASA earth satellite tracker. Through this, you can get a list of sighting opportunities for the ISS, NASA satellites, as well as other NASA missions depending on your location.
All of these features are free on IOS and Android phones. You can also cast its content to your Apple TV, Chromecast, and Fire TV devices.
SkyPortal by Celestron is a planetarium and a star simulator in one app. Through it, you can simulate the night sky 100 years in the past or in the future. SkyPortal’s Time Control feature can animate transits, conjunctions, eclipses, and other events.
It shows you a synchronized display of the stars in real time by just holding your phone towards the sky. In addition to this, it features information about stars, constellations, planets, nebulae, and galaxies.
If you’re a beginner in stargazing, the app has an audio commentary to guide you through the best objects that you can view in the sky. It also has a compass mode so can have an idea of your current location.
Just like the NASA app, you can also browse for space and spacecraft images. The application is also compatible with any Celestron WiFi telescope so you can navigate it better.
The only downside of this app is it is a little complex to use, especially when integrating it on the telescope. Aside from that, SkyPortal does its job well for a free app.
SkyView must be the most recommended app available today. It is an augmented reality app that makes use of your smartphone’s camera to show the paths and coordinates of any celestial objects in the sky.
Tapping an object shows you detailed information about it. You can also manually search for any celestial body or space stations that you can think of and the app will locate them for you.
Its night mode has red or green filters and plays a calm music that you can disable at the settings. It also has a customizable interface that lets you change the size of the objects that you see on your smartphone.
Meanwhile, the app’s Time Travel feature can let you see the state of the sky in any date or time.
It has a simple and straightforward interface that makes it good for kids and amateur stargazers. What’s surprising is that the app does not require a data signal, WiFi, or GPS to function that makes it perfect for camping and stargazing at the mountains.
The SkyView app is also the exclusive partner of Space Navigator binoculars and telescopes. You just have to mount your smartphone on the equipment for better stargazing experience.
The free version has non-intrusive ads but users can opt to purchase the premium version for more features at $1.99.
Considering SkyView’s comprehensive features and high ratings, it’s not surprising why it is one of Apple App Store’s Best of 2012 and Google Editor’s Choice in 2017.
The app presents itself as a “virtual planetarium in your pocket”. Like other applications in this category, it uses augmented reality to view celestial objects and its information with the use of your smartphone’s camera.
It then ups the ante by letting users travel 10,000 years forward or backward in time and change their location so they can view the sky from different points on Earth.
Star Chart is configurable and displays only the sky objects that you are interested in. You can filter them by object type, Solar System, stars, constellations, and Messier catalog of 110 exotic deep sky objects
Using intuitive finger gestures, you can zoom in to view the sky in extra detail and also view the sky underneath the horizon no matter what kind and time of day it is. You can also see how things change at certain times of the day.
The app’s database of objects is limited in the free version. However, in-app purchases that may amount to approximately $16.00 can unlock enhanced star catalogs, meteor showers, and comets. You can also opt to buy Star Chart Infinite that costs $4.99.
Overall, Star Chart offers all the basic features that a stargazer needs, but in order to enjoy its full potential, you might need to spend a few bucks.
Star Walk 2 is an improvement of an app with the same name. It’s a stargazing application that offers free roam and a manual mode aside from augmented reality. Users can also travel in time to see skies from the past and future.
It has a really impressive and smooth interface that makes it enjoyable to view a comprehensive information about celestial bodies. However, fainter stars and objects have generic information.
One special feature of this app is its setting that lets the users see the sky at different wavelengths. Through this, you will be able to see celestial objects that are only visible at radio, microwave, infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray or gamma-ray frequencies.
It can also mimic star trails if you speed up the time toggle. Stay in the loop with a feed of the latest astronomy news.
The only downside to this seemingly perfect app – that is a Google Play Store Editors’ Choice in 2017 – is its disruptive ads. Of course, you can always purchase the ad-free version for $2.99 as well as upgrades that add other deep sky objects and satellites for $0.99 each.