Space. I love space. I didn’t study astronomy or anything related, but I’ve been an armchair astronomer since I was 11 and pored over a giant picture book detailing our solar system, galaxy and what might lie beyond. I never actually considered studying the stars, nor did I catch the “astronaut” bug as a child, but sometimes I think I may have missed a calling.
Of course, 21st-century technology has only fed my obsession. I’ve perused a few space-related apps, and — although I haven’t tried them all — I found my favorite easily. The interface is marvelous in its simplicity and I can tell the developers are making good use of phones’ capabilities. This app could be pared down to its most-basic interaction and still be great, but the depth of information behind its wow-factor is remarkable.
This app makes my not-so-inner nerd sing.
Something comparable on the Android appears to be Star Walk 2, which is $0.99 on Google Play. Reviews for this app have been similarly favorable to the iOS’s SkyGuide. (Do you have a favorite astronomy app for Android? Tell us in the comments!)
Far and away the best feature of the SkyGuide app is the main attraction — the ability to lift your phone up to the sky and see all of the constellations, planets, satellites, comets and other space objects in your phone’s “field of view.”
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been sitting outside with friends who look up and wonder what a certain bright dot is in the sky. If I don’t already know, out comes SkyGuide, in which we inevitably lose ourselves in for the next 15 minutes.
The app gets even more exciting for big events — past and the future — including this year’s total solar eclipse which will be visible across North America. Curious what that will look like from where you’re standing? Turn the time forward to Aug. 21, 2017, between 2 and 4 p.m., Eastern time.
I’m in Washington, which will not see the moon cover all of the sun. But it will come close. I could always drive to North Carolina, I suppose.
Now let’s look at Friday’s lunar eclipse! I can do this right now by changing the sky time, so to speak, to the time of peak eclipse. When I do, the sky appears exactly as it will at 7:44 p.m. Eastern time, including the shadowed moon. The moon will not turn red tonight, since it’s not a total lunar eclipse. It will turn gray as Earth’s shadow grazes the moon.
It labels comets, constellations, meteor showers and individual stars. I spoke with the developers at Fifth Star Labs and they said regrettably, they did not get Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusáková into the app in time for tonight’s pass. Each event is added by hand and there are a lot of comets. Understandably, it’s hard to know which ones will pique people’s interest in advance.
At the very least, set up an alert for the International Space Station and impress your friends by pointing it out in the sky. You’ll earn some serious nerd-cred.