Apps To Help Identify The Stars At Night
Stargazing can be a fun and educational activity to do with the kids at night, ideal for warmer summer nights or camping trips. In Brisbane we are lucky enough to have the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium at Mt Coot-tha and The Brisbane Astronomical Society that has regular viewing nights.
If you have a budding astronomer there are heaps of free and cheap star gazing apps available for download in both the Google Play and Apple stores for your phone and tablet devices. Below are some of the best apps for stargazing with kids.
SKYVIEW – EXPLORE THE UNIVERSE
The Skyview app comes in both a paid and free version in both the Google and Apple app stores. By simply pointing your phone or tablet at the sky, it will identify galaxies, constellations, stars, planets and other significant features above your location. It works without wifi or GPS, therefore perfect for camping and holidays, without having to worry about reception or using up data. You can also find more about this app at http://www.terminaleleven.com/skyview/iphone/. This app won the ITunes app of 2011 and 2012.
STAR TRACKER FOR KIDS
Also comes in a free lite version for Apple, point at the sky and locate thousands of stars, moons and planets all visible to the naked eye. Night mode enabled to protect children’s eyes, as well as having all the data offline in the app. We found this clever video review that explains how it works thanks to http://www.KidsBestiPadApps.com
STAR ROVER HD
Identifies your location automatically to view sky and the features in real time. It has a pinch and zoom feature to tell you everything you want to know about a certain area in the night sky while you gaze. Just hold up your iPad and Star Rover HD will tell you exactly what you are pointing at.
STAR WALK HD
Described as the most beautiful star gazing app available, view over 200,000 celestial bodies with ease, with extensive information right there within the app to make it a whole family learning experience as you star gaze. There is also an option to snap an image of the sky with your device and add it to your view.
THE NIGHT SKY
Hold your Phone or Tablet up to the sky and The Night Sky will display the names of the stars, planets and other objects you are able to see, even if your view is obscured by clouds or daylight, The Night Sky app will know which stars, planets, galaxies, constellations and satellites are hiding from your view. The Night Sky does this by using your location data provided by the GPS and compass built in to your device. There is also an upgrade pack available for the Apple version of the app with extra features included.
Navigator includes everything you need to experience the night sky. Plan your observing session with a custom list of tonight’s best objects to view based on your exact time and location. Look ahead and see what special star gazing opportunities are coming up, such as eclipses. View hundreds of photos or listen to more than four hours of audio narration to enhance your stargazing experience.
(Android – $3.69)
Pocket Planets is a comprehensive 3D Solar System Simulator, with accurate scale representation of the Sun, Planets, Moons, Asteroids, Dwarfs and detailed information to the celestial objects. Use it as educational software for your kids, or regardless if you are a beginner or advanced astronomer, this App brings you closer to the planets than any telescope. Also available in a free lite version.
(iOS – $3.79)
Available in different versions to suit different Apple operating systems, as well as a free version. Sky Safari shows you the sky from any place on earth, at any time up to 100 years into the past or future. Includes educational descriptions written by professional astronomers, as well as hundreds of images from NASA. If you have a compass enabled device, the app will help you locate specific stars and planets.
POCKET UNIVERSE EXPRESS
(iOS – Free)
Quickly identify objects in the sky, displaying thousands of stars, constellations and solar system objects in real-time view. An upgraded version is available as an in-app purchase.
(Android – Free)
Official Google app to help users learn about the night sky. Point device at the sky, and using GPS and compass data, the phone will identify what you are looking at. It will also assist you in finding specific features in the sky.
If you have an astronomer in the making it is an interest worth nurturing. The National Geographic Shop both online and in-store offer a range of start up telescopes and there are plenty of books to further explain different constellations and the history of astronomy. Another website you may be interested in exploring is http://publishing.nla.gov.au/documents/Australian_Backyard_Astronomy.pdf. If you happen to find a stargazing or astronomy app not on our list then please do note it in comments below for the enjoyment of everyone!