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Best stargazing phone apps for iPhone?

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#1 CSG



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Posted 19 February 2017 - 06:57 PM

Someone mentioned Skyview to me the other day and I downloaded the free version (which has a very limited database for DSOs).  Love its functionality but there are a lot of other programs out there.  You can upgrade the free Skyview program and get more items in the database but what are you guys using and what else should I look at?


My astronomy these days is more naked eye and binocular rather than telescope and, typically, less than an hour.  However, a good app could make using the telescope a little more fun again if I don't need to starhop as often to find more difficult objects.

#2 junomike



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Posted 19 February 2017 - 09:24 PM

SkySafari 5 Plus.... ($15).



#3 nicknacknock


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Posted 20 February 2017 - 12:35 AM

SkySafari 5 Plus.... ($15).






And that concludes your search for an app  :grin: SS5 rules!

#4 CSG



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Posted 21 February 2017 - 02:28 AM

I'll look into SkySafari, although I have no need for telescope control as I don't use a computerized scope.  Any other suggestions?  63 views, 2 answers.

Edited by Chris Greene, 21 February 2017 - 02:32 AM.

#5 nicknacknock


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Posted 21 February 2017 - 02:47 AM



You can even get the basic SkySafari app which costs only $2.99. No telescope control, more limited DSO database. A good intro into a stargazing ad. But I would recommend the Plus or Pro even. I prefer to have the full database so I purchased the Pro. But the Plus strikes a good balance I would say.


Nobody else is responding for the simple reason that SS5 is simply the best!


I haven't used printed charts for the past 1.5 years and I am loving it!. Getting more observing done with less fuss and with much better planning - that's what it's all about. Had me a Takathon last Friday and bagged 27 objects from 19:05 to 21:25 with my Tak FC76DC. No way I could have done that messing with printed charts...

#6 CSG



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Posted 21 February 2017 - 11:39 AM

Thanks Nick.  I'll give SS5+ a closer look. 

#7 CSG



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Posted 23 February 2017 - 05:13 AM

I've ended up with three apps now - Skview for $2 (upgraded from the free version), SkyGuide for $2, and SkySafari 5+ for $15.  I like most of the features of Skyview best but it's lack of pinch zoom is frustrating.  All three will be useful and I appreciate the recommendation for SS5+.  All work on my iPhone SE just fine but because of its small screen, using them on my iPad is even better.


So my $20 investment is about the cost of a field guide but far more useful to me.

Edited by Chris Greene, 23 February 2017 - 11:51 AM.

#8 Roger Corbett

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 11:21 AM

While Sky Safari is the cat's meow, one can never have enough astronomy apps!  


Some others worth adding for different reasons:


Starmap 3-D + (not to be confused with Starmp 2)


GoSkyWatch Planetarium. 






3 other star charting apps that are worthwhile, but have serious aesthetic glitches, depending upon your tastes!  Distant Suns, Luminos, and Pocket Universe.  


All are these are so inexpensive that it's worth picking up a bunch.

#9 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 01:47 PM

Skyportal is a version of Skysafari designed for use with certain Celestron mounts. If connected to the mount, it's equivalent to SS+, if not, its equivalent to the basic.



#10 pjglad


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Posted 23 February 2017 - 02:46 PM

IMO, the best two apps are SkySafari and Observer Pro.

#11 Vic Menard

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 04:47 PM

+1 for SkySafari5 (I use the Pro version) and Observer Pro.

Not exactly "stargazing", but if you observe the Moon, I like Moon Atlas and MoonGlobeHD.

If you want to find out your limiting magnitude, there's Dark Sky Meter.

And there are lots of good weather apps to help you pick a good night to observe!


Finally, I know you said iPhone, but if you have/get an iPad, I highly recommend Observatory by Emerald Sequoia (IMO, far more engaging than their chronometers for iPhone).

#12 Roger Corbett

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 05:25 PM

The reason I listed SkyPortal is because of its audio tracks!  They provide engaging overview of objects in the sky,  they are related to but being out different information than is in the object description screens-- and are done as a friendly, amateur astronomer speaking to other amateurs about what you are viewing.    (Not sure, Jon,  if you were trying to tell others or inform me, but I've known from early on, from the first launch of it, that it is powered by Sky Safari.  After all, when it launches it says "Powered by Sky Safari 5".)


Given this audio feature, it is not just for use with a Celestron scope-- and even complements Sky Safari, any version!


In addition, SkyPortal differs in a key -- and major -- respect from the base Sky Safari when it is NOT connected to a Celestron scope!  Unlike it, SkyPortal can only display 1 DSO at a time on the screen!  And, that's only after searching for it!  There may be other differences, too, but as I no longer have the base SS installed on any device, I'll leave it to others to chime in... 


Bottom line:  SkyPortal is free and well worth downloading to have the audio overviews, even if you already own SkySafari, no matter the version! 

#13 skysurfer


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Posted 23 February 2017 - 05:40 PM

I'd recommend Skysafari 5 Plus and Stellarium Mobile ($3) as a good second option.

#14 drewying


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Posted 24 February 2017 - 04:17 AM

There are dozens of planetarium apps and I've probably tried all of them. (At least all the ones I can find).


For serious star gazing nothing can compare with SkySafari. While there are dozens of planetarium apps out there, nearly all of them are made for the mainstream, casual star gazer. SkySafari is the only one that is designed for people with actual telescopes in mind. The trove of features it has can't be found anywhere else.


With that said, for pure aesthetics I absolutely adore Sky Guide. The design of that planetarium app is mesmerizing. I can play with that app for hours. (Should be noted that its not very useful for telescope work with it's limited pinch-and-zoom). It's just a beautiful app.


A lot of people love Star Walk 2 but I personally find that one grating.


Scope Nights and Sky Live are also very useful for weather forecasts. I bounce between both of them. There's also a new one, Astrospheric that seems very promising.

#15 Markovich


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Posted 24 February 2017 - 10:38 AM

SS5 Pro

Gas Giants

GoSatWatch- excellent satellite tracker

Dark Sky Meter

Clearskyclock or Scope Nights

#16 CityObserver


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Posted 07 March 2017 - 08:01 PM

I've downloaded and bought every astronomy app I could find. And I'll get any more suggested!


However, it's hard to argue against the consensus that Sky Safari Pro is the best all round app. It's easily the most useful for actually getting things done with a telescope. 


That said, other apps have their own specialities...


Here's what I have tried:


Sky Safari Pro

Yes... this is the best single app out there. It's got pretty much everything you want and a decent interface.



This isn't a planetarium app, but it's my favourite space app. All the Kepler information laid out in a 3d map of the galaxy that you can fly around... All the systems rendered in 3d using the new data... And if you buy the add ons, you can fly around the entire known universe. It's awesome.


Observer Pro

Useful for checking out what's going to be in the sky. More of a technical tool, and it doesn't seem to have been updated for the newest iPhone screens. But it's mainly text, so that doesn't matter so much.


Star Walk 2

Prettier and less technical than Sky Safari, and useful for just exploring constellations.


Sky Guide

Even prettier and even less technical than Star Walk 2, but it's good with Iridium flares and fun to look up random stars for information. It brings up a nice render of what they might look like.


Red Shift Pro

This used to be better than Sky Safari, but it seems to have stagnated. Technically good, huge catalog and a fun fly through tour of objects. If you want to fly to DSO's and rotate round them in 3d to see what they'd look like in space, this does that better than SkySafari 



It's slightly annoying to move around in, but it does have the prettiest pictures of DSOs placed in the sky. So it's good for a bit of an explore.



The best thing is the simplicity. You can figure out star magnitude and navigate around easily. I use this if I want to quickly double check want a star is that I'm looking at using my naked eye.


Night Sky 4

It can look quite good, but it has an annoying non 1:1 touch interface (move a little, the screen moves a lot). It does have easy to access, nicely laid out information about a lot of objects.


Sky View

This is an Augmented Reality app, so it overlays the constellations over what your camera sees. Hold it up to the sky and it should overlay correctly. It never really does so it can be fun, I've found it useful once or twice, but it's a mainly novelty. The graphic design layout isn't that good. 


Distant Suns

Not that great - I don't like the planetarium features in it. But there is a what's in the sky tonight feature that's pretty fun.


Solar Walk 2

If you like flying through the galaxy or the solar system, this is the best app for that (apart from Exoplanet). 


Pocket Universe
Another good bit of planetarium sofware. This one is very quick to read, which can be helpful if you want a quick check. It has lots of options and depth to explore too.


Nasa TV

No longer updated -- it's been folded into the main NASA app. 



A must have, it's NASA isn't it... interesting news to dip into. You can watch NASA TV through this.



It shows you all the satellites orbiting the earth. Interesting, but it's not been updated to work with the latest iOS versions, so it looks old and can slow up.



If you're interested in Sattelites, this is the app. It looks good and has lots of information.



Quite nice planetarium software, which looks a little different from the rest, instead of tapping on things, you can move the eye piece and it shows a close up on the object you pass over as a photo. The main issue I have with it is that the frame rate can drop when trying to render a small number of objects on the screen -- I'm using an iPhone 7 Plus. 



Quite a good stargazing weather app. It looks nice and gives you some useful widgets. Though I quite like the stargazing options on the main WeatherUnderground app. It's not quite as technical as...


Scope Nights

The best app to show you if the weather is going to be any good for stargazing. Unfortunately, the interface is a little confusing and irritating.



If you have NASA you should have ESA... well not unless they update this to work with new iOS versions...


Wonders of the Universe

To go along with the BBC TV series, this is pretty fun. Like an glossy animated book.



Quick way of seeing what's in the sky and what's brightest. Text/Menu driven which is good for speed.


Useful astronomy forecasting app, with additional useful info such as projected seeing conditions.


ISS Finder

See where the ISS is and who's on board. Fun, and if you want to spot the ISS overhead, useful to plan with...


Astronomy Enthusiasts

Doesn't work any more


It's a nice idea to give you star tours like a GoTo handset, but I found it too clunky.



It is what it says it is. It looks nice and is fun to play with for a bit but it's not been updated to work properly with the latest iOS. It doesn't seem too buggy though. The only thing is I'm not sure what the point is.


Planet Finder

Another AR app. It's okay. But old and not updated.


PS Align

An app for helping along your EQ mount. I've not used it to actually do this. But it seems to be the thing you use if you have an EQ mount and want an app to assist aligning it.

I've tried more, but those are the ones I reinstalled when I got a new phone at the end of last year. 


While I use SkySafari if I'm doing something serious. I do have Red Shift, Stellararium, Star Walk, Luminos and Pocket Universe set up at different magnitudes, so if I want to gauge what is in the sky quickly instead of resetting the magnitude limits, I jump between apps. I also like to compare the information, because picking out the right star can sometimes be tricky. 


That said, I could probably get rid of all of them except: Exoplanet, SkySafari, ScopeNights. I like playing with the others, but those three I'd really miss.

Edited by CityObserver, 07 March 2017 - 08:06 PM.

#17 Roger Corbett

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 02:26 PM

City, really liked your round-up and mini-reviews!  Good stuff!


Question:  I know most of the apps, but one I didn't was Sky Guide!  How does its handling of Iridium flares compare to, say, Sputnik! or Iridium Flares?  That is, if you happen to know them!

#18 A. Viegas

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 08:52 PM

Just a few more city did not mention

Gas giants for iOS. Want to see which moons are orbiting Jupiter? Or saturn. This is it. And it's free

Astroaid. More of a technical app. But if you want to see what m13 or ngc891 will look like through a differrnt scope using different eyepieces or focal reducers or barlows or through a camera? Use this. It's free for IOS

Clearoutside. It's free weather app for iOS


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