The world of apps, websites, and programs that help in the world of astronomy, astrophysics, and science, in general, is ever-changing. The number of such apps is increasing every day, so it can be a bit rough to get started in choosing the right apps for your needs when you are aware of your needs. But as in everyday life, we often find ourselves in the position of not knowing what we need. So, we at The Secrets of the Universe want you to have the right start in finding the apps you’ll love.
For this purpose, I decided to split the chosen space apps into two categories, Education and Observation Guides. However, I think that I can give you five essentials that you must have, regardless of your needs. These five space apps will help educational and observational purposes, so we shall get started with those.
The Essential Space Apps
It is definitely my #1 app. I use it constantly, even though I may no longer need everything it offers. Education-wise, it is the app that got me started in observational astronomy. As a student, I didn’t always have the possibility of going out and looking at the sky because of the sky conditions in my city. Also, I didn’t have a telescope, which probably made me less motivated to study the sky, as the rewards of skywatching, with your eyes as your only instrument, are not rewarding enough after a while. However, knowing the sky is essential for any amateur or professional astronomer.
Therefore, you will probably do some work to study the sky yourself at some point before buying a telescope. This is where Stellarium comes in. It provides extremely accurate simulations of the sky, and besides the fact that you can see the sky in real-time, you can fast forward to see how the celestial sphere works (the night sky), and you can also see how it looks at any date and time.
Learning about constellations is one of several app features. The app provides both shapes, “pictures” of where the constellation names come from, main stars, Messier objects, and the associated regions in the sky regarding the constellation. Also, the program features the possibility of removing the ground or the atmosphere at your places. Finally, you can use it to see when a certain star or planet or any other celestial object rises and sets.
It also contains complete information about any celestial object you can think about (position, like declination and right ascension, proper velocity, apparent and absolute magnitude, and depending on which object it is other specific info). So the app provides just everything you might need.
You can find the app free for Android and at a reasonable price on IOS. Also, the app works just great and is free for desktop. You can just search Stellarium in Google, and it will lead you to their website, where downloads are available.
Star Walk 2
As an alternative to Stellarium, Star Walk 2 has its advantages over the first one. It might be easier to use and is more educational-oriented than Stellarium. It is more interactive, lighter in design, and easier to learn than Stellarium. Overall, while Stellarium is a more serious app with its rewards, Star Walk 2 might be better for a beginner.
Among its features is clear information about what can be seen in the sky tonight and how and when to spot those objects. Also, Star Walk 2 can be found for free on IOS too. Of course, there is also a paid version, but I wouldn’t suggest buying it before you try the free one. For me, the free one is just enough.
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Space Launch Now
An interesting app to own, both for educational and news purposes, as you can learn about space exploration and rockets in general, but you will also be in touch with every launch in the world from the main companies and agencies. In addition, you can select which agencies you want to follow and which types of launches you are interested in: for example, you might not be interested in every satellite launch there is, or you might be interested in SpaceX satellite launches only, or maybe in astronaut launches only.
However, this might not be really useful information. Why would you need to know who launches what when you can’t be there to see it? Well, it’s just cool to be in touch with what goes on in the field of space exploration and learn about the rockets used, and you can make yourself an introduction to this field.
Now, this is an extremely useful app, but it kind of classifies in the Observation side of this article. However, it is a necessary app, and if you choose five space apps from this website, this is definitely one of the ones you should own, so that is why it fits here. What it does is show you in detail the sky conditions at your place.
So you get to see best observing times for the Moon, the state of the Sun in the sky, complete data about the clouds above you during the night (and day, if you need it), data about the fog out, chances of rain, amount of rain, wind, the direction of the wind, the temperature outside (and how it really feels!!), and humidity. Basically, everything you could need for a night of observations.
Space And Astronomy News
For the last app that is more than cool, I chose a maybe dull app at first glance, but one which will keep you busy for sure, as you can choose the topics and publications you want to follow and see all the latest news. Of course, you will need an internet connection, but it doesn’t consume much.
Other education space apps
Galaxy Zoo: I’ve written before about community contributions to science and citizen science. Now you can install this app to contribute to the classification of galaxies! Have fun, join the community, discuss the most exciting things you’ve seen, and the best thing is that you can do it anytime you want and for how long you want! You can do it on your way home when you’re bored on the bus, before going to bed, or in the mornings when you want to get up.
Space Images: An official NASA app, more exactly from JPL (the Jet Propulsion Laboratory), where you can check out beautiful Universe objects. You can choose from many categories; see pictures by missions, planets, or stars. Also, the “Favorites” feature lets you save your favorite pictures into your personal library. The app is as awesome as it sounds. Definitely check it out.
Universe: Also coming from the extremely interesting Štěpán Brychta, the creator of “Quantum App,” we have this app, “Universe,” discussing the Cosmos this time. It explains the most important topics in cosmology, making it essential for astronomy and astrophysics lovers. Check out “Quantum” too!
Solar Walk: This one is better for beginners, as it provides a cool augmented reality. You have celestial concepts well explained in clips, and you can find excellent info about the Universe! It is perfect for kids, as it is catchy and good-looking, with concise and straightforward explanations.
Other observation space apps
Sky Map: If you are on a budget smartphone, Sky Map is your way to go! This incredibly light and reliable planetarium app includes all the information to help anyone track the astronomical object of their choice.
NightShift: Another fantastic app for stargazing conditions and events; this app will give you an easy outlook of the night conditions at your place and what’s happening in the sky tonight and in general around this period of the year. I also chose to include this app because it is way easier to use than Clear Outside. Its outlook is very straightforward, and it is very easy to move around its features.
Star Chart: This app is incredibly interesting because while other space apps show you the sky, and when you see an object, you can try and see what it is, it tells you exactly where to look for an object you want to see. Not that you must have this, but it has this interesting feature of guiding you that most of the other space apps don’t have.
Photopills: Next up, we have Photopills, an all-in-one app for astrophotographers and astronomy enthusiasts. It works by helping you plan your photos ahead of time, so you always get the perfect shot at the perfect moment. Be it a lunar eclipse or a meteor shower, it will calculate precise settings and exposure times so that you always get the best shot possible. Though the price tag of $9.99 can be a bit high for some people, the price is worth it compared to the features that this amazing app includes!
Learn Astrophysics at home
Did you always want to learn how the universe works? Then, read our 30-article Basics of Astrophysics series absolutely free of cost. From the popular topics such as stars, galaxies, and black holes to the detailed concepts of the subject like the concept of magnitude, the Hertzsprung Russell diagram, redshift, etc., there is something for everyone in this series. All the articles are given here. Happy reading!
Author at ‘The Secrets Of The Universe’, I am a science student from Romania. I am also the founder of Astronomy Hub, an organization for popularizing astronomy and astrophysics. I love reading philosophy and literature, enjoy classical rock, blues, and watch movies.