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Best astronomy Apps for iPhone

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#1 radsdad

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 09:55 PM

I just got a new iPhone and am wondering which apps have been found to be the most useful for astronomy. I've checked the app store, and see there's quite a bit available. Which star chart app is best? Any other recommendations for a new iPhone user that I may not have thought of? Thanks!

#2 cbwerner

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 12:17 AM

I've got Astromo and Starmap that I currently use. I've tried others, but those are the ones I liked the best when I made the rounds as it were. The tough thing is how quickly new apps seem to come out, or old ones get updated, but between those two I don't feel any need to go back and reexamine things.

#3 Nick Cook

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 06:22 AM

I really enjoy using Star Walk, but have to admit I haven't looked at any other apps yet.

#4 DanSchroeder

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:01 AM

There are now seven serious star-charting apps for iPhone and iPod Touch. All have their strengths and weaknesses, so the best choice depends on your needs. To help reduce the confusion, I've written a detailed comparative review:

http://physics.weber...iPhoneStarApps/

(The review of Distant Suns is already out of date since a new update was released last week. I'm working on a revision to reflect that update, and I'll do my best to keep the review as up to date as I can.)

#5 bicparker

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 05:49 PM

My biggest complaint about all of them is the sparse number deep space objects (which has kept me from buying any of them). Uranus has the most, with 500, which is still a disappointingly small number (especially if you are observing in southern constellations).

I don't really expect to use it in the field, but, instead, have it as an alternative reference when I don't have my computer.

I still think they have a way to go in this area. I would really like to see SB and Imaginova get a couple of apps in the Store (and no, the SN web app doesn't count).

Dan, that was considerate of you to put together that comparative review. It is the best and most informative collection of information on these iPhone applications that I have seen (including the information from the vendor's own literature).

#6 DanSchroeder

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 08:16 PM

Good point about the relatively small number of deep sky objects. There's certainly no intrinsic reason why a mobile app can't include a larger database of DSO's. The iPhone (or iPod Touch) has plenty of memory and graphics power, and it shouldn't affect ease of use for beginners as long as there's an option to hide the fainter DSO's.

Fortunately, the author of Starmap is working on an enhanced version called Starmap Pro, promised for release this March. According to the author, Starmap Pro will incorporate the full NGC and IC. It'll be a separate app (with a separate price), not an upgrade of Starmap itself.

Most of the other vendors seem to be working on upgrades, but I'm not aware of any plans that are as ambitious as Starmap Pro. Let's hope that the DSO lists in Distant Suns, GoSkyWatch, iStellar, and Star Walk at least get expanded to include some southern objects. And perhaps there's something else in the pipeline that'll take us all by surprise.

#7 Nick Cook

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 11:25 AM

Nice one Dan – excellent work. It will be interesting to see how these apps develop, but I think they already are serious contenders to devices like Meade's MySky.

#8 FoxTrot

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 04:54 AM

Thanks guys for this topic! Exactly what I was looking for, and what has got me stoked in anticipation is StarMap Pro, & that telescope control might be added sometime in 2009! It's stuff like this makes me love Apple and talented software developers so much. I had been thinking about a Netbook PC, but it looks as though an iPhone app just might do the job for me. Awesome! Fox

#9 Doug D.

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 12:58 AM

Dan,
Thanks a million for the link and for all your hard work. I've only downloaded Star Walk thus far and that was mostly just for fun - it truly is a gorgeous app but not that useful from a practical stand point.

I wish that there was something similar to "Planetarium" that I've used on my Palm Tungsten T3 for years - it was great with my Dob and analog setting circles I installed. I thought it was quite feature rich with a great locator interface. Are you familiar with this program? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Doug

#10 Thomas Pfleger

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 05:26 AM

I wish that there was something similar to "Planetarium" that I've used on my Palm Tungsten T3 for years - it was great with my Dob and analog setting circles I installed. I thought it was quite feature rich with a great locator interface. Are you familiar with this program? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.


Hi Doug,

I like Planetarium very much! My Palm is outdated, slow and not as fancy as an iPhone, but it runs very reliable, does not need to be charged almost every day and I can run "Astromist", too.

Recently I exchanged some thoughts on iPhone development with Cyrille Thieullet, the author of "Astromist". In his view, the most important obstacle with the iPhone is that you cannot use a pencil to select small things on the screen. All iPhone Apps I have seen yet (very few) come with BIG buttons and controls. This is sensible if you want to do something while riding on a crowded train or are otherwise disturbed when operating. But if you have only big GUI elements, how do you fine control a star chart? Does the iPhone bring more problems than advantages as an astro app platform? The navigation possibilities are nice, but that's not so important because a star chart looks rather correct even if you know your site only with a precision of 50 kilometers.

Tom

#11 Doug D.

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 09:49 PM

Good point Tom. I guess the thinking with the iPhone GUI is that it is very easy to expand the size of an area with a simple 2 finger spread. Once magnified it is easier to select the smaller object.

Planetarium with its Alt/Az screen would be fine for the iPhone GUI I think - less so of course for the sky chart. In any event, I must confess to being wholly addicted to the iPhone for its interface and for the apps - after a couple months with the G3 version I'm smitten and it goes with me everywhere but the shower! Granted, it may not be best suited for serious astro use.

#12 Astraforce Paul

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 05:46 PM

"after a couple months with the G3 version I'm smitten and it goes with me everywhere but the shower! Granted, it may not be best suited for serious astro use." Or for taking into the shower! :-)

We should update this thread! What are people using these days?

I have several astro apps on my iPod Touch. Here are just a few of the highlights, especially focused on the freebies!

I particularly enjoy APOD Viewer Lite for its daily fix of great astro pictures and info. It works better than the alternatives I've tried.

iCSC for the clear sky clock is fine, but it's almost easier, faster, and more useful to save a bookmark on the Home screen to the web site--that launches Safari and you can see the entire night at a glance rather than having to scroll.

iEphemeris Lite is a great way of quickly seeing the Moon's phases and its upcoming phases.

Distant Suns Lite is a simple, but useful app. Alas, it's limited to the current time and always comes up facing North, but its What's Up feature showing you the planets in the sky is something the other astro apps should emulate. Also, Mike Smithwick very kindly turned on DSOs in the lite version and cleverly shows them as colored coded dots that really stand out well against the black sky. Seeing the Virgo galaxy cluster as a collection of yellow fireflies is tres cool! Here, again, the other astro apps could learn something.

StarMap Pro and Sky Voyager occupy special places as full-blown, rich planetaria.

SV has some impressive display options, including magnitude controls of DSOs vs. stars (though I still haven't figured out how it works vs. fov), simple toolbar interface that's easy to use, and wonderful descriptions of DSOs (wish that could be the default info screen). The descriptions almost make you feel as if Sue French or Walter Scott Houston were with you!

SMP has fantastic customization, including great control over the display, quick Telrad overlay, has nifty pop-up mini-pics of many DSOs, and can use the internet for more info (although all I've found that way is more coordinate info).

There are other threads around here on their specific features and using them in the field.

I'm sure there will be many SMP vs. SV threads and comparative comments & reviews on the net in the coming month; in the meantime, let's just say that one or the other, or both, are well worth having on your i-device!

So, what astro apps are *you* using on your i-device these days?

#13 peter k

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 07:46 PM

My biggest complaint about all of them is the sparse number deep space objects (which has kept me from buying any of them). Uranus has the most, with 500, which is still a disappointingly small number (especially if you are observing in southern constellations).


Bic, you were correct when you posted. Uranus was the winner six months ago, with 500 DSOs. But as Dan's excellent roundup (thanks, Dan) indicates, Starmap Pro shows 13,200 of them, and Skyvoyager, omitted from Dan's roundup, shows 31,800.

#14 imjeffp

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 11:44 AM

Add IridiumFlares to the list. Uses location from GPS--very nice.

#15 Brian Gibson

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 01:25 PM

iCSC for the clear sky clock is fine, but it's almost easier, faster, and more useful to save a bookmark on the Home screen to the web site--that launches Safari and you can see the entire night at a glance rather than having to scroll.


Paul,

You might like to try my free Clear Sky Chart web app for the iPhone (SkyCharts). It is a Safari web app and allows you to monitor three locations. Read my review for more details and screen shots. http://www.cloudynig...hp?item_id=1994

Brian Gibson

#16 Astraforce Paul

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 01:00 PM

Brian, looks impressive!

I read over the page and even went the web site, but I tried to add a Clear Clock site, it sent me to Google maps. Now, I was trying this in Safari on a MacBook Pro, but...

are there simple 1, 2, 3 steps you could post here on what to do on the i-device?

I assume it's to launch Safari and then go to a particular URL...

Oh, wait. I just figured out one thing, I'm supposed to click the info button not the pin! I think that part of the directions hadn't loaded yet!

In case anyone is interested in pursuing this, here's the URL for SkyCharts

http://www.anythingb...com/iphone/csc/

For anyone who has different observing sites, especially that require lots of travel, I can see the convenience of this as it allows you to store 3 clear sky clocks.

#17 Brian Gibson

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 06:43 PM

Paul,

The simplest way to install the app is to go to my web site home page www.anythingbinary.com using mobile Safari on the iPhone or iPod Touch and tap the large image of the SkyCharts icon (which points to the URL you mentioned above). I suggest reading my article on CloudyNights to get an overview on the apps features. As you discovered the red push-pin icons bring up Google Maps to show where a particular Clear Sky Chart site is located. I used the standard Apple utility web app template so the small information icon in the bottom right corner flips the screen to the setup page. You will also find some useful tips at this thread on the Discussion of CN Articles and Reports Forum.
http://www.cloudynig...5/o/all/fpart/1

Hope this helps,

Brian

#18 Astraforce Paul

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 02:28 PM

Brian, thanks much for the follow up! That's a big help and will also help others who come across this in the future!

#19 jupiterzkool

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 05:12 PM

I love the Pocket Universe app. I makes use of the GPS and compass control to orient the sky. It also has convenient information on objects that are visible. It doesn't cost much either.

#20 ebusinesstutor

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 12:08 AM

{quote]
You might like to try my free Clear Sky Chart web app for the iPhone (SkyCharts). It is a Safari web app and allows you to monitor three locations. Read my review for more details and screen shots. http://www.cloudynig...hp?item_id=1994

Brian Gibson [/quote]

Brian, this works excellent! Nice to always have with me on my iPhone so I can see if I will be sleeping or stargazing tonight.

#21 Sean Blumenthal

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 02:28 AM

I love the Pocket Universe app. I makes use of the GPS and compass control to orient the sky. It also has convenient information on objects that are visible. It doesn't cost much either.


I second the vote for Pocket Universe. Especially cool is what it can do on an iPhone 3GS (with magnetometer), you can set it to show you the chart of the section of sky you are holding the iPhone up to. As you move the iPhone around, the display changes in realtime. People have remarked that this shows the beginning of the new wave of "killer app" which is ugmented reality. Here is an example of augmented reality on iPhone 3GS.

Dan, your review page is awesome. Very good work.

#22 ggarrison

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Posted 12 August 2009 - 11:31 PM

I love the Pocket Universe app. I makes use of the GPS and compass control to orient the sky. It also has convenient information on objects that are visible. It doesn't cost much either.


I second the vote for Pocket Universe. Especially cool is what it can do on an iPhone 3GS (with magnetometer), you can set it to show you the chart of the section of sky you are holding the iPhone up to. As you move the iPhone around, the display changes in realtime. People have remarked that this shows the beginning of the new wave of "killer app" which is ugmented reality. Here is an example of augmented reality on iPhone 3GS.

Dan, your review page is awesome. Very good work.


I have Pocket Universe and StarMap Pro. I like the simplicity of Pocket Universe, but I really wish it had a night vision mode. Standing outside in the dark, the screen is so bright it really ruins my eyes for spotting/navigating. StarMap Pro is great but really complex. It will take some learning on my part to make it really work for me. :scratchhead:

Clear skies.

#23 ormazd

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 12:22 PM

I'll tack this on to the thread as a PSA, in case anyone else has this issue. My StarMap Pro started acting weird over the weekend. The azimuth was displaying roughly 90 degrees off to the west. The iPhone compass was working properly.

I emailed Frederic at StarMap, and he replied within 30 minutes. He suggested switching the compass setting between true and magnetic north. That seemed to reset the app and resolved my dilemma.

I love the app!

#24 Mickey

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:10 PM

I like the simplicity of Pocket Universe, but I really wish it had a night vision mode.


Pocket Universe v1.8 has a night vision mode. Go to the "Planetarium" then tap in the "i" button in the far most right corner, then scroll down to the bottom. You should see it second from the bottom and flip the switch.

Not sure if the previous version had a night vision mode.

Mickey


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