Barely a few days ago, the entire United States of America was covered by a blanket of darkness in broad daylight. The total solar eclipse is a phenomenon where the Moon comes between the Earth and the Sun, covering a part of the Sun. It is a rather rare event – for those who want to know, something similar will happen in the United States only after about seven years now. Small wonder that a large part of the world turned its eyes to the sky at the time of the eclipse.
But while the total solar eclipse managed to grab a lot of eyeballs, there is so much more happening up there in the sky. Every minute, every second, something happens up there, and it often is as amazing as the eclipse was. The problem, of course, is that all this is so far away. But how is it possible for one to even know about the stars and the constellations and different planets and what is happening out there? Well, remember how there is always an app for everything. It is true in this case as well. And what’s more, for all you sky lovers out there, there isn’t just one. There are dozens of astronomy apps out there telling you about the world out there in outer space. Here are our seven astronomy apps to satisfy the sky-o-phile in you:
Redshift: Great graphics and information, with a price tag
Redshift has to be one of the most amazing astronomical apps out there. The app is basically a sky map that allows you to see different stars, constellations, and planets. Our favorite feature is that when you select a constellation or a star to view, it actually takes you to the star or constellation as if you are traveling through space, making you feel so much like Buzz Lightyear, if not a real astronaut. Along with this, the app also offers information about extra terrestrial bodies. At first, the app may seem a little confusing, but on each corner of your screen, you have four different icons that can help you navigate. There are options like; follow the sky, take 3-D flights, observatory and setting location amongst many others. You can also look up stars, planets, and constellations by names – and the app will take you there. We were also impressed by the graphics of the app and how it turned our iPad’s screen into a beautiful sky.
The app is available both on iOS and Android platform. On Android, it is available for Rs. 140 while on iOS it will cost you a rather princely Rs. 800.
Star Walk 2: Easy to use, but adds ads to space
Star Walk 2 is one of the easiest star apps to use of this list. After launching the app, your phone screen will turn into the sky with billions of stars on it. You can just navigate with your fingers or can even search for a particular constellation, planet, planetary nebulae, star, and satellite. You can also switch to augmented stargazing by opening your camera through the app, which will help you locate stars around you in real time. The interface of the app is easy, and the graphics are also pretty good. This one is not really as efficient as RedShift but definitely gets the job done. You can also share the information and visuals with your friends through the app. The only problem with Star Walk 2 is that is loaded with ads and every two-three seconds you use this app; an ad will definitely appear on your screen which can be quite annoying (oh, the price of free-dom). We also did not like the ET-like music in the background, which made everything so unrealistic. Although you can turn it off, there will still be sound while you navigate in the app. Available on both iOS and Android platforms for free.
Sky Map: The name says it all
Sky Map, formerly Google Sky Map, basically comes with two modes, automatic and manual. In the auto mode, you have to move your phone to look at different extraterrestrial bodies while in the manual mode you can just navigate with your fingers. Both the modes are super easy to use. The application has a bunch of options with which you can see stars, constellations, planets, etc. At first glance, it seems a little cluttered, but you can keep the extraterrestrial bodies that you want to look at by just deselecting those that you do not want on the map – that simple. There is nothing fancy about this app; the interface looks just like a map of the sky as the name suggests. The graphics are not that good, but if you want a star app to just spot a celestial body up there, this one is pretty simple and can be handy. Only available on Android for free.
iOS: Not available
Sky View (Free): See stars everywhere!
Sky View comes in two versions, one is paid, while the other is free. We tried the free version of the app (so call us cheapos). The app, just like all the others in the list, works on the basis of your location. The app is a lot like Star Walk 2 but only better. Unlike Star Walk that starts with an outer space-like backdrop, the app straight away opens the camera on your phone and put the stars and planets everywhere around you. So, you have little stars and planets all around you, no matter where you are or where you point the phone. It is quite fascinating for you can see stars all around you even as the camera shows the “normal” world as well. As this can be a little battery consuming, you can also switch to the basic black outer-space like background. There is also music in this one, but you can completely turn it off. It has not so many frequent ads and offers more information than Star Walk 2. Just point your phone in a direction, and you will know which star or constellation or planet is where at the moment. The app is compatible with both iTunes App Store and Google Play Store for free.
Total Solar Eclipse: All about blotting out the sun!
This one is a rather complicated app but is the perfect app if you do not want to spot the stars and planets and only want to know about solar eclipses around the world. The app divides the screen of your phone into two halves. One, where there is a map, and the other which is pitch black. It gives you information about eclipses and offers different videos of recent solar eclipses (including the one in the US recently). The videos give you different and detailed views of the eclipse, and the map shows where the eclipse was most prominent. It also has a very outer space-y background music which we found slightly annoying, and the fact that we could not find an icon to turn it off was even more problematic. The videos are automatically streamed over a Wi-Fi connection, but you can change that in the settings. One can also share the videos as the app allows you to do that, as well. All in all, it is an app just for the solar eclipse, and that is about it. Available for download on both iOS and Android platforms without a price tag.
NASA: For star-ry information hunters
Yes, there is an app by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). What’s more, this is our favorite star app in this list. It basically is an information providing app, that shares news, and information about space and related activities. The app has various categories like news, images, TV, and radio, and videos, amongst others. All these categories come with a wealth of information, and because it is an app from NASA, you can be sure of it being true, and regularly updated as well. It offers a broad horizon through which people can learn more about space. Not just by reading but by watching images and videos as well. The app is easy to use and navigate through. You can also keep your favorite images, articles, and videos separately and go back to them whenever you wish. It is super simple, has a clutter free interface and offers very handy information, if no fancy space simulations and graphics. The NASA app can be downloaded from both iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. The app is available for free.
Star Tracker Lite: Track them stars
Star Tracker Lite will turn your phone screen into an extraterrestrial window. The app, as the name suggests, allows you to track stars and planets. This one is pretty minimal in terms of interface and features. There are just five options on the app; the icon for music, the option to buy a full version of the app, the icon that offers magnification, a 3D button and a button that turns on or off the constellation clutter. You just have to point your phone in a direction to know which star, planet or constellation is present there. You can also simply pinch into your screen to magnify the star. But the app can only do so much – there is not much information about the stars, planets or constellations. That said, if all you want to do is spot stars, then this is the app for you. It is available on both iOS and Android platform for free of cost.