Top 10 Premium Smartphone Apps For Stargazing

Top 10 Premium Smartphone Apps For Stargazing

Looking to upgrade to a premium astronomy app that offers more features than the average free app does? Then you have come to the right place. At Astronomy Trek we have compiled a list of the top ten premium astronomy apps available on the market.

The average smart phone today has more processing power than the combined computing power of all the computers that were used to land the first men on the Moon, and to bring them back to Earth safely. One happy consequence of this fact has been that modern smart phones now have the ability to process huge amounts of astronomical data, and to render images at resolutions that were impossible to achieve just a few years ago.

Given the above, the makers of astronomy apps for both iOS and Android devices have developed astronomy apps that literally place the Universe in the hands of anybody that owns a smart phone or tablet. However, all astronomy apps are not created equal, and while there are some tolerably good free apps for stargazing available, either for smartphones or desktop, premium astronomy apps are almost always more complete, more user-friendly, and more stable than free apps.

Note however that since some of the apps on this list offer far too many features and functions to list here, we can only include the top ten or so features and/or functions of each app. Therefore, we recommend that you visit either the down load page, or the website of each app for more information such as pricing.


Stellarium Mobile Sky Map

Overview

  • Compatible with both Android and iOS devices
  • Updated 21 March 2019
  • Size of installation varies with device
  • Published by Noctua Software

Description

With more than one million downloads to date, Stellarium is arguably the best-known planetarium app today. Unlike most other planetarium apps, Stellarium cannot only be configured to show the sky from any location on Earth, but also to display the real-time motions of objects in either the entire sky, or just those within a selectable field.

In addition, the rate of movement can be adjusted as well, which means that it is possible to determine the actual position an object would be at in a few hours’ time, which is great when you are planning an observing session.

Key Features

  • The view on the screen matches the sky exactly, although selectable sections of the “sky” can be zoomed into
  • The app contains a catalogue of more than 600,000 stars, some of which have accompanying images and descriptions
  • The app also contains a catalogue of thousands of galaxies and nebulae, as well as positional data and images for most of them
  • Most artificial satellites, including the ISS can be tracked in real time
  • Any object in the data base can be displayed and identified simply by holding the phone up to the sky
  • The app can display asterisms, as well as constellation boundaries and artwork depicting constellations in several cultures
  • 3D renderings of the solar system can be displayed in night vision mode
  • Local horizon can be augmented with realistic atmospheric conditions, as well as the extinction of stars and other objects due to sunrise and/or light pollution
  • App displays what is probably the most realistic rendering of the Milky Way short of an actual image
  • GPS-controlled accelerometers control and stabilize views of the sky

Redshift

Overview

  • Compatible with both Android and iOS devices
  • Updated 1 August 2018
  • Installation size – 16MB
  • Developer – United Soft Media

Description

Many astronomical apps offer virtual space flights through the solar system. However, this app does it better than most, since it allows the viewer to “land” on the surface of any planet and/or moon in the solar system.

Key Features

  • The app provides detailed information on which objects, including planets, stars, galaxies, and constellations are visible in the night sky from your actual location
  • Included is a database that contains information and positional data for more than 100,000 stars, 70,000 spectacular deep sky objects, 500 asteroids, 16 comets, 26 solar system moons, and all planets, including the minor planets
  • Views can be set to night vision mode
  • Most graphics are rendered in 3D against selectable backgrounds
  • The app also include orbital data on most of the major artificial satellites orbiting Earth, and most can be tracked in real time

Distant Suns (Max)

Overview

  • Compatible with Android and iOS devices
  • Updated 10 November 2017
  • Installation size – 31 MB
  • Published by – First Light Design, LLC

Description

Distant Suns is perhaps the oldest astronomical app, and has been under constant development for longer than 25 years. This is no doubt why it won the TabTimes Best Tablet App (Family Category) award in 2014.

Key Features

  • Viewing location can be set to any point on Earth, or any point in the Local Universe
  • Data and time can be changed to view the sky as it was thousands of years ago, or as it will be thousands of years into the future
  • Jupiter, Saturn, and Earth can be viewed from different perspectives and/or points in the sky
  • The app allows the viewer to undertake virtual space flights around the solar system
  • Although Distant Suns contains data on only about 200 galaxies, star cluster, and nebulae, most of these are easy targets for binoculars or small telescopes
  • Star catalogue contains positional and other data for more than 130,000 stars

Pocket Universe

Pocket Universe

Overview

  • Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, but requires iOS 12.1 or later
  • Updated – Frequently
  • Installation size – 186 MB
  • Developer – John Kennedy

Description

Pocket Universe was the first astronomy app to both incorporate a compass, and to use the phone’s camera to deliver an augmented reality experience to viewers. In practice, when a viewer holds the phone up to the sky, the view captured by the camera is augmented by stored images, as well as labels that identify objects in view.

Key Features

  • App works equally well in both hemispheres, which is unique among astronomical smart phone apps
  • App tracks the ISS, and predicts sightings for your location
  • Links to Wikipedia for updated information on selected objects, but note that no data is ever transmitted from the device
  • App records the length of the day, and keeps track of changes in the length of days over a full year
  • A “Show Me” function guides the viewer to selected galaxies, stars, nebulae, and constellations
  • Includes a calendar that keeps track both of what will be in the sky on a particular night, as well as important celestial events that will occur on a selected date

GoSkyWatch Planetarium

GoSkyWatch Planetarium

Overview

  • Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch but requires iOS 9.3 or later
  • Updated frequently with free additional enhancements
  • Installation size – 103 MB
  • Published by – GoSoftWorks Development Co.

Description

This app seems to have been designed specifically for use on cold nights, since no set-up is required. The user simply holds the phone up to the sky, and a 180-degree view of the sky appears as if by magic. Moreover, the phone or instrument can be held at any position relative to the horizon to show objects that are below the horizon, or on the other side of the Earth.

Key Features

  • There is no need to tap or touch the screen for information on any object to appear; information is displayed automatically as the instrument is panned across the sky
  • The app uses gyroscopes to stabilize the compass, meaning that displayed views are always rock-solid and vibration-free
  • The brightness of the planets is displayed relative to the brightness of surrounding stars, meaning that it is easy to distinguish the planets from nearby stars
  • Objects are displayed with minimal text, but with the advantage that the objects’ distance and brightness is available at a glance
  • App contains positional data on all stars that are visible with the naked eye
  • User can search for stars and deep sky objects by name, magnitude, or distance
  • App displays constellation maps, boundaries, and star patterns
  • App can be set to night vision mode

Cosmic Watch

Cosmic Watch

Overview

  • Compatible with both Android and iOS devices
  • Updated 5 June 2018
  • Size of installation varies with device
  • Published by – Celestial Dynamics Ltd

Description

Cosmic Watch manages to combine both basic and advanced astronomical principles with accurate time measurement to deliver an augmented reality-based space flight capability. The app also includes a celestial calendar that lets the user know about all important/significant celestial events that are visible from his selected location. In fact, this app has won several awards, including AASL best app for teaching and learning award in 2017, and the WEBBY AWARD for the Best Educational App 2018.

Key Features

  • App displays a 3D rendering of the entire celestial sphere
  • Displays comprehensive orbital details of retrograde planetary motions
  • Displays an interactive 3D astronomical clock and several world clocks
  • App receives and displays important astronomical notifications
  • Displays both heliocentric and geocentric views of the solar system
  • App can display extensive star maps, as well as constellations and their boundaries

GoSatWatch Satellite Tracking

GoSatWatch Satellite Tracking

Overview

  • Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPad touch, but requires iOS 9.3 or later
  • Updated frequently
  • Installation size – 30 MB
  • Published by – GoSoftWorks Development Co

Description

For observers that are primarily interested in tracking satellites, this app tracks most major artificial satellites, including the ISS, and predicts sightings for almost all satellites for any selected viewing location. In addition, this app can also be used to calculate accurate dish orientations to track geostationary satellites by using iPhones’ GPS location capabilities.

Key Features

  • Displays world map showing the orbital track of a selected satellite
  • App can also display satellite tracks that pass directly overhead
  • App can predict satellite sightings, and issue pass alerts
  • One touch updates of satellite orbital data, but note that the dive needs occasional internet access to download updated information
  • Supports views in both landscape and portrait orientations
  • Supports easy setting up of viewing locations with preset city lists

Mobile Observatory 2

Mobile Observatory 2

Overview

  • Compatible with Android devices, but requires Android 7 or later
  • Updated February 23, 2019
  • Installation size – 31 MB
  • Developer – Wolfgang Zima

Description

This app shows the user a live, interactive, and zoom-able map of the sky, and includes detailed information on hundreds of thousands of stars, as well as nebulae, galaxies, asteroids, comets, and many other types of objects. Also included is a highly detailed ephemeris of all included objects, as well as an interactive “north-pole” view of the solar system.

Key Features

  • App includes a database with detailed information on around 9,000 stars in the Bright Star Catalogue
  • All Messier and Caldwell objects are included, complete with descriptions and images
  • All major meteor stream are included, with information on peak dates and expected maximum rates
  • Contains a database of about 2,500 objects in the NGC catalogue, as well as an additional 400,000 stars in the PPM catalogue
  • App can calculate and display detailed predictions of both lunar and solar eclipses
  • App can display a current active image of the Sun, and details on the number of currently visible sunspots
  • Calculates accurate lunar librations, as well as the ascending node and maximum lunar declination
  • App can also display information on the brightest comets, based on the selected date

StarSeek 5

StarSeek 5

Overview

  • Compatible with both Android and iOS devices
  • Updated frequently
  • Size of installation varies with device
  • Developer – Orion Telescopes
  • Note that if this app is to be used as a telescope controller, the separately-sold Orion StarSeek Wireless Telescope Controller is required

Description

StarSeek 5 represents a significant advance over its predecessor, StarSeek 4. As such, there is no update path available to upgrade to StarSeek 5 from earlier versions. StarSeek 5 now offers full support for iOS 9 and Apple Watch, and this combined with a slew of new features, functionalities, and updated databases literally puts the Universe at a user’s fingertips in a way that no non-professional astronomy can emulate- simply by holding the device up to the sky.

Key Features

  • App database includes 2.5 million stars, 31,000 deep sky objects that include the entire NGC/ IC catalogue, as well as 4,000 asteroids, comets, and satellites, the orbital data of all of which can be updated
  • Also included is an updated database with Abell and Hickson galaxy clusters, as well as a comprehensive database on the globular star clusters in the Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
  • App can display everything in the sky on a given date, including the ISS, Moon, planets, and even iridium flares
  • The app offers iCloud synching with all of the user’s iOS devices
  • App allows downloads from the Digitized Sky Survey
  • Includes a handy simulator that can show the sky as it was up to 10,000 years ago, and up to 10,000 years into the future
  • App also includes a handy animation feature that can compress all celestial movements over long periods into periods spanning minutes, or even seconds
  • App can access SkyWeek, a weekly column in Sky & Telescope Magazine’s mobile version that includes weekly star charts

Observer Pro – Astronomy Planner

Observer Pro - Astronomy Planner

Overview

  • Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPad touch, but requires iOS 8.1 or later
  • Updated frequently to add enhancements and improvements
  • Installation size – 207.2 MB
  • Developer – Joshua Bury

Description

This is not strictly an app for stargazing. However, it is arguably the best observing session planner available today, which is something all serious amateur observers need on an almost daily basis.

Key Features

The greatest feature of this app is that it measures an observer’s local horizon, and factors in all obstructions such as houses, buildings, trees, and even lamp posts. These are then factored into the app’s database of 14,000 deep sky objects.

As a practical matter, the app then calculates the exact time when a selected object will become visible from behind an obstacle. So with this app, there is no need to spend hours waiting for something to become visible from behind trees and building. The app calculates this for the user, which means that observing time can be better allocated and used.

In addition, the app allows a user to configure several local horizons at different observing sites. It also allows the user to link directly to local weather sites to obtain information on transparency, cloud cover, and general seeing conditions for each saved observing site.

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