Astronomy App Recommendations

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by nburwell, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. nburwell macrumors 68040


    May 6, 2008
    I'm looking for an app (or two) which maps out the stars and milky way in the sky. The purpose is that I would like to photograph the sky with my DSLR, and I'd like a point of reference since I'll be out in the complete dark while I'm doing this. Any recommendations would be appreciated. I should also note that I do not have a preference whether the app(s) are paid or free. Thanks.
  2. lpeedin macrumors regular

    Nov 4, 2011
  3. Qaanol macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    SkySafari 3 is my personal favorite of all the ones I’ve tried. I have installed numerous star gazer apps, including Star Chart, Star Walk, Stellarium, SkyView Free, and SkySafari. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

    SkyView is nice because it works for any phone orientation, meaning you can hold your phone diagonally at arbitrary angles and the view aligns with the sky properly, whereas most other sky apps snap to vertical or horizontal orientation only. Additionally, the “augmented reality” mode wherein the sky objects are overlaid atop the current view through the phone’s camera is very nice. Unfortunately the camera is not sensitive enough to pick up actual stars in the night sky. This app also has no ability to zoom in or out for a closer look at the sky. The free version has an extremely limited catalog of objects, which does not even include any planets. I have not tried the paid version, which has more objects, but still not a comprehensive catalog. This app is cute, and nice for impressing people with its augmented reality mode, but does not cut it for real use.

    Star Chart has the most beautiful (in my opinion) constellation illustrations, but also has an annoying “feature” whereby the view jumps to the nearest constellation, and does not stay centered where you point the phone. It can show the sky at any phone orientation, not just vertical and horizontal. However it has only a modest catalog of objects. For example, it does not contain the Galilean moons of Jupiter, and the image of Jupiter itself is very poor.

    Stellarium is fairly bland, without much to distinguish it. When you search for an astronomical object, it unfortunately centers the view on that object, rather than providing an arrow so you know which way to turn in order to find it. This does contain the Galilean moons of Jupiter, but the image quality is very poor even on Jupiter itself. The view works in vertical or horizontal mode, but does not compensate for diagonal alignment.

    Star Walk provides the better search results, with an arrow toward the object, but has a fairly small catalog and little ability to zoom in. It does not contain the Galilean moons of Jupiter, although the image of Jupiter is sharp. The view works only in horizontal mode, it does not even have the ability to switch to vertical mode, let alone any sort of diagonal.

    SkySafari is, in my experience, far and away the best of those I have tried. It has a vast catalog of objects, it allows zooming in extremely close or all the way out to a fish-eye view, and it has an extensive range of customizable settings. The only drawback is that the view works in horizontal and vertical modes, but not diagonal. It has gorgeous high-quality images not only for Jupiter, but for each of the Galilean moons as well.

    I have not tried Pocket Universe nor Night Sky. However, I am so happy with SkySafari that I have no desire to try anymore star gazer apps.
  4. TJ61 macrumors 6502a

    Nov 16, 2011
    You should seriously consider starting an app review site. ;)

    Which version (level) of SkySafari 3 do you have (Basic, Plus, Pro)? Did you consider Starmap? I have the Pro version of that, which I chose almost exclusively for its ability to zoom further than the basic version (to 4'5" compared to 13.8*). At full zoom, the moons of Jupiter just span the full horizontal display. But, it only zooms out to span 90 degrees on the horizon. Otherwise, the larger database is overkill for me, as I can only see down to mag 9 with my 10x50 binocs on a tripod (no telescope), to say nothing of a lot of telescope-centric features going to waste. It does show an arrow when you search for something -- the arrow persists as you pan in that direction, or jumps there if you tap the arrow.

    Until I got my first iPhone last fall, the last good mobile planetarium app I had was (wait for it...) Planetarium on my Palm T/X (R.I.P.), so that was the one to beat. I've been fairly happy with Starmap Pro, but I can't compare it to anything else on the iPhone. SkySafari 3 was on my list, but I can't remember why I chose against it. It may have been that the zoom level was an unknown.

  5. Qaanol macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    Thanks, I have the basic version of SkySafari, though I’m thinking about switching to the Plus version. I never tried Starmap, no.

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