One of the best parts of summer is sitting outside on a warm night, glass of wine in hand (or bar of dark chocolate, whatever your pleasure), good company by your side and nothing but brilliant sparkly stars above you. If you’ve ever had the good fortune of spotting a shooting star, you’ve witnessed an amazing display of light and cosmic energy.
You always hear people talking about the relative insignificance of the human race in the grand scheme of the universe. That feeling is never more reinforced than when you start to explore astronomy and what really lies beyond our galaxy.
Whether you’re a stargazer who can only point out the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, or whether you much prefer calling it Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the following 10 mobile apps can help you in your stargazing pursuits.
You look up at the stars, but you have no idea what you’re seeing – until now. Star Walk is an amazing app that lets you simply point your device to the sky and automatically map out the constellations. You can also track moving satellites, look at skies from nights past or the future and tap anywhere on the screen to get a star’s exact position in the sky. (iOS)
Yes, it’s on the pricey side, but SkySafari 3 Plus is a great companion for any stargazing enthusiast. It contains an enormous database of constellations at your fingertips, with information about star coordinates, physical parameters, orbital parameters and more. Using the iPhone’s built-in gyroscope, you can find and search for anything in the sky, including planets, moons, asteroids, comets, named stars, brightest stars and much more. The developer of this app also provides an accessory to the app: SkyFi enables SkySafari 3 to work as a telescope controller. (iOS)
Cost: : $14.99 (Depending on your astronomic knowledge, there are different versions. For fewer features, SkySafari Lite is $2.99; and for a whopping 500 MB, 15 millions stars, 740,000 galaxies’ worth of information, SkySafari Pro is $59.99)
This is a free app that also offers the ability to point Android devices to the sky and map out constellations. In addition, users can search for planets, grids, deep sky objects, and also use the search functionality to find something specific in the atmosphere. It provides a simple interface and is a great tool for identifying anything in the sky. (Android)
Stuck at work and counting down the hours until nightfall? Astronomy Picture of the Day can tide you over until your date with the cosmos. The photos, hand-picked by NASA astronomers, are different each day and are accompanied by thorough descriptions. Shake your device for a random image, and even share that extra special photo of Saturn with a friend. (iOS and Android)
Here’s another great Android app for stargazing that offers similar functionality as some of the more feature-rich iOS apps. It includes constellation/satellite/planet tracking, as well as search functionality and social sharing. There’s also an Earth View mode that lets you see our planet from space with cool day/night shading, as well as viewing bands to determine when satellites are visible from where you are.
6. Nasa App HD
In addition to providing information and images about our universe, the NASA App HD offers cool features like live streaming of NASA TV, on-demand videos from NASA, current mission and launch information and more. There is also a detailed Satellite Tracker and data on current visible passes for the International Space Station in your region. (iPad)
Remember the part about the human race’s insignificance? Watching the intro video to this app makes that point abundantly clear. This app goes beyond what’s just in the sky above by placing it into the context of the entire solar system, galaxy and universe. It maps everything you want: 47,000 asteroids, 400 exoplanets, 5,000 galaxies – with amazing 3D effects and animation. SpaceMap provides an intuitive interface and visually stimulating experience that makes you feel intergalactic. (iOS)
This app gives you in-depth information on all the planets (with the exception of Pluto, poor guy). You can locate planets in either 2D or 3D mode and select different visibilities of the sky, such as X-ray, Infrared, Microwave and Radio. There is also a Globe function that lets you view a rotating 3D image of all the planets and the moon. (iOS)
The images included in the Hubble Top 100 app are as astounding and mystifying as the stars themselves. Taken directly by the Hubble telescope itself, the images feature breathtaking colors, lights and patterns of swirling gases and air. Information accompanies each photo, as well as a slideshow with techno-ish music to fuel your cosmic mood. (iPad)
Who better to create an app about space than an astronaut himself? Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot on Apollo 11 and the second human to walk on the moon, has created this beautiful app that features a mix of personal perspective, commentary from NASA and a variety of other sources. The app features video, Twitter and news feeds and roundtable discussions on planetary exploration, space tourism, Hubble and anything else you’d want to know about space exploration. (iPad)
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