With the advent of modern GPS technology embedded within your mobile device, you no longer have to rely on 2D, diagrammatic representations of the night sky. Instead, SkyView is an app that lets you point you camera at the darkness above, where it provides you with a nicely-designed overlay that adjusts dynamically according to your position. In simple terms, SkyView accurately maps the locations of the stars, planets, satellites, and galaxies in the night sky relative to your current position. The result is a sublime app for aspiring astronomers, and one deserving of this short review.
Mobile Observatory is a modern-day astronomer’s dream. Comparable to SkyView Free only with much more extensive features, Mobile Observatory is both a compendium of celestial knowledge and an interactive tool that allows its users to observe the night sky. Features such as 400 observatory locations, night-sky-map overlay, and real-time celestial-event functions are just the beginning here. Though the technical information contained within the app is towards the advanced level, this is precisely what sets this app apart from its competition. £3.49 is a miniscule asking price given the excellent design and wealth of information in this app, which is reviewed in detail here.
Google’s stellar reputation for providing solid, often open-source software for the public to utilise is well-known, and the search engine giant has also branched into all things astronomical. Google’s Sky Map is a free piece of software, it’s open source, and it does a great job of providing a functional (if a little simplistic compared to its competitors) map of the night sky for you to navigate to your heart’s content. It’s a very a basic experience – Google’s Sky Map has a mere fraction of the functionality of Zima’s comprehensive Mobile Observatory – but for the amateur astronomer it can be a great, cleanly-functioning tool that allows one to expand their knowledge of the sky, or simply to bask in the novelty of exploring the wonderful universe a few swipes at a time.
Just as it would be quite ridiculous to expect a GCSE-level biology student to dive straight into a 3rd-Year-University-level textbook, you wouldn’t simply hand a child a complex and rather overwhelming app like Mobile Observatory and expect them to learn anything. That’s why Star Walk Kids – Explore Space exists, to act as an introductory step into the world of astronomy through its cartoon graphics and simple, easy-to-understand explanations of various astronomical phenomena. Aimed at answering questions ranging from “What is the Moon?” to “How Long is a Martian Year”, Star Walk Kids does a great job of skirting the line between education and entertainment, packaged in an aesthetically pleasing manner and offered up for free in the iOS and Android app stores.
You’re all set up with your telescope, but how do you know which part of the sky and which cluster of a million or so celestial bodies you’re aiming at? SkyEye is the solution to this exact problem. This is an app that’s designed for virtual navigation of the night’s sky, and is best used in conjunction with a telescope to aid study and general observation of the observable heavens above. With features including a comprehensive database of objects in the sky and the use of your device’s accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope, SkyEye makes for a rather essential element of the amateur astronomer’s arsenal.