Websites and Apps for Stargazing

How do you find constellations and planets in the sky? Today, with the help of great apps and websites, it’s never been easier.

Best Website: Stellarium

Stellarium is the free web version of the popular app. Features you’ll want to use for Experience Astronomy include…

  • Your Location – In the bottom left-hand corner, you can set your location. If you turn on “Use Autolocation,” the website should adjust the sky to where your computer is currently located.
  • Date and Time – In the bottom right-hand corner, you can set the date and time you plan to go outside. Remember, this website uses military time, or a 24-hour clock. So 10pm is listed as 22:00, etc.
  • Landscape – By clicking the Landscape icon, you can see where the horizon is located.
  • Night Mode – By clicking the Night Mode icon, you can make your screen red, helping to preserve your night vision should you choose to take your computer outside.
  • Fullscreen – By clicking the Fullscreen icon, you can make the web tab take up the entire screen.
  • Settings – In the Settings menu, you can turn on and off other helpful sky references such as the Milky Way (visible in darker skies), the Meridian line (which divides the sky into East-West halves), and the Ecliptic line (which is the path the sun takes through the sky, cutting through the zodiac constellations).

 

Best Free iOS Apps

Below are some of the best free apps available. All of these apps come with the basic feature of being able to hold your mobile device up to the sky, showing you the stars, planets, satellites, and constellations you’re facing at that moment.

Sky View

This is, perhaps, the most robust and easy-to-use free app available. Helpful features include:

  • Shows horizon
  • Night mode (turns screen red)
  • Displays a compass below the viewer’s feet
  • Aligns with device’s camera, overlaying the constellations and stars over what is visible through the screen (this can be done manually or automatically)
  • Constellation art is classy and non-distracting
  • Pausing on a star reveals star’s name
  • Constellation lines and art can be manually removed
  • Date and time of viewing can be adjusted

Downsides: Constellation feature can be buggy, and some may find the camera feature hard to use.

Star Tracker Lite

Helpful features include…

  • Simple to use
  • Built-in compass shows direction
  • Constellation art is subtle and non-distracting
  • Shows horizon
  • Shows ecliptic line
  • Shows planets
  • Shows Milky Way

Downside: The app lacks settings for showing and hiding what you do and don’t want to see. There is also no night mode available (see below). Websites and Apps for Stargazing

Star Walk 2

Helpful features include…

  • Shows horizon
  • Night mode (turns screen red)
  • Ecliptic line can be turned on and off
  • Captions can be turned on and off
  • Brightness of stars can be adjusted so you can mimic the light pollution in your area, or see in the app what stars you can’t see easily in the sky

Downsides: The ads can be pretty intrusive. The constellation art, while fun to see, can be distracting to actually noticing where the stars are.

Pure Universe Express

Features include…

  • Simple to use—very few bells and whistles
  • Shows horizon
  • Shows ecliptic line

Downsides: Free version only shows what is visible at the time of use, so daytime use is dominated by sunlight. There is no night mode available (see below).

Night Mode

If you choose to use an app, iOS devices also come with the built-in feature to turn the whole screen into night mode (red light). If the app you are using does not come with night mode, follow the following instructions.

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