6 Best Stargazing Apps

May 10, 2023 0 Comments

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For millennia, people have gazed into the night sky in an attempt to understand, or perhaps simply marvel at, the cosmos. While viewing the stars and planets with the naked eye is a simple beauty, we’ve developed improvements along the way, whether it’s polished crystals in antiquity or telescopes in the Renaissance. But these approaches do nothing for stargazing programs.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned stargazer, you can immerse yourself in the mythology of the constellations, feel the swirling gas and dust of the nebula, even get a close-up shot of a satellite in space with stargazing apps. Those that go further offer unearthly opportunities to explore—and understand—objects in the night sky. Most programs offer free versions.

6 Best Stargazing Apps

(Photo: Courtesy of Nightsky)

1. Night Sky, $5.99 (premium version)

Recognized as “the most popular stargazing app on iOS,” Night Sky provides a truly immersive space experience. The free app includes a real-time map of the sky that updates as you move your device, as well as a virtual reality feature that lets you explore nebulae, constellations and planets in 3D. One of the few applications suitable for macOS, Night Sky also allows you to have an unforgettable personal planetarium experience on the big screen. And it is available in 68 languages.

If you’re interested in humanity’s contribution to space, Night Sky lets you zoom in on various spacecraft like Sputnik 1 and The Space Shuttle, as well as Explorer 1.

Night Sky received an Editors’ Choice rating in the App Store. Since its launch in 2000, Night Sky has received over 1,300 reviews. “​​I’ve been using Night Sky for quite some time now,” says one user. “I went through 5-6 apps before I was happy with my choice. Overall, this is the best app for anyone who loves astronomy.”

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Skyview app for stargazing

2. SkyView, $2.99 ​​(advanced version)

Since its launch in 2011, 3.2 million users have downloaded the SkyView app for stargazing. It allows you to point your device at the sky and instantly identify stars, galaxies, satellites and other celestial objects.

The app uses your device’s camera and augmented reality technology to overlay images and annotations on your camera screen with simple words. Click on a star or constellation and you will learn the name of the object, a few facts and details of its position in the sky. Clicking on the information button will give you even more information about the history, mythology and astrology of the celestial body. And it doesn’t need a data signal, meaning it stays functional when you’re camping in remote locations.

SkyView includes an Apple Watch-friendly version, as well as a handy “today” widget that notifies you of the biggest and brightest objects this evening. The app is only available in English.

One reviewer raved: “This is one of the most incredible and incredibly simple technologies I have ever found!! Entertain your friends or yourself, this tool will keep you busy all night.”

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Screenshot of the Starwalk app for stargazing

3. Star Walk 2, $2.99 ​​(premium version)

If you’ve ever wanted to travel back in time, you can do just that with Star Walk 2, a feature that allows you to travel forwards or backwards in time and explore space on any date. You can also zoom in at different angles to experience vivid, high-definition detail.

There is also plenty of background information on moon phases, meteor showers and other astronomical events. The free version offers the same features and occasional ads.

One reviewer recounts his ten-year infatuation with the app: “As a kid, I loved opening the original Star Walk app on my grandparents’ iPads. It filled me with wonder and stirred my imagination.”

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A screenshot of the Stellarium stargazing app

4. Stellarium Mobile, $13.99 (Plus version)

Stellarium Mobile has a minimalist interface that helps you identify celestial objects in seconds, making it especially convenient for children. Inquisitive people can rely on the search function to explore the app’s catalog of over 600,000 stars, planets, constellations, satellites and other objects in the far sky. Get ready to get lost in the Milky Way zoom feature.

The app can also easily switch between the northern and southern hemispheres, making it ideal for travelers. The paid version gives you more access to deep space, as well as a zoom feature that provides atmospheric conditions and planetary details such as the shadows of Saturn’s rings. The program was conceived by the creator of Stellarium, an open source planetarium.

One reviewer attests, “Stellarium is by far the best general-purpose astronomy app for the iPhone.” Another adds: “With this app, I finally found the pocket star atlas I’ve been looking for for so long. Not too easy on the eyes, but instead packed with the features you need for well-thought-out observation sessions at your fingertips.”

A screenshot of the Go Sky Watch app for stargazing
(Photo: Courtesy of GoSky Watch)

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5. GoSkyWatch Planetarium, $3.99

For those who prefer the unadulterated night sky, GoSkyWatch Planetarium offers a minimal text overlay. It also includes a number of features that allow you to customize the look for different cities and set reminders for upcoming astronomical events such as meteor showers and eclipses.

Its contactless display means all information populates as you move the screen – great for chilly nights, with the other hand in your pocket or when you’ve got a drink in hand.

One reviewer explains: “Fantastic!!! The best program of its kind that I have found. The more I use it, the more I discover the things it can do. I input my own location with high accuracy and find everything else it calculates extremely accurate. The display is very realistic with respect to the relative brightness of stars and constellations, exactly as you see them. Being able to choose between standard time, mean solar day or sidereal days is very useful.”

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Screenshot of Photopills stargazing app
(Photo: Courtesy of PhotoPills)

6. PhotoPills $10.99

If you want to capture the perfect shot of the starry night sky, PhotoPills will be your perfect companion. The all-in-one photography app has become incredibly popular among night sky photographers and astro-enthusiasts thanks to its ability to help plan photo shoots. The application provides detailed information about the position of your target, as well as its movement throughout the day. It also includes a scheduler that lets you schedule shots in advance. With the 3D augmented reality tool, you can preview whether the Sun, Moon and Milky Way will line up with your desired position long before you take the shot.

One reviewer touts it as “the best app for astrophotography.” Another calls it a “must have” if you want to capture a beautiful sunset, south-facing shot, and/or the Milky Way anywhere.”

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RELATED: The 7 Best Astrology Apps

About our contributor

Sierra is a writer, contemporary mystic, and community builder. She has been practicing yoga for almost ten years and received her certification in 2018. It teaches all about connection: connection with the body, nature, and the universal love that unites us all. She also likes to incorporate witchcraft practices such as moon magic and the wheel of the year into her lessons.

Sierra’s global community network, The Mystic Members Club, helps women deepen their spiritual explorations, feel empowered, and create a community of like-minded people. She loves guiding them to their witchy side, helping them gain the confidence and abundance they deserve! In addition to teaching, she is an avid traveler, dancer, writer, and music lover. Find her at thelocalmystic.com, on Instagram @thelocalmystic and on YouTube.

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