identify stars and galaxies
*This article has been updated July, 2018

I’ve never been able to identify stars or constellations.  With the following apps, all I need to do is point my phone at the sky and I’ll be as smart as the next guy!  Turns out this is called ‘augmented reality’, which is, simply put, allowing your mobile phone to give you improved information about what you’re seeing than your memory provides.

Star Walk

This is a great astronomy app for stargazers. It’s straight-forward with easy to understand instructions.  Scan the universe or search for something in particular and you’ll be amazed at the gorgeous graphics. Good for the amateur star gazer or professional astronomers.  Check out a meteor shower. You can also check out what the skies looked like on a past date or what they will look like at a future date!
$4.99 For iPhone, iPad

Solar Walk is the brand new first cousin of Star Walk.  Check out planets and satellites all in 3D.  There are short movies and lots of other information you can pull up about what you’re seeing.  Solar Walk also can track time – that means that planets are in proper orientation to the sun.  For example, the Earth will be dark wherever it is nighttime and will slowly brighten on its other side.
4.99 at itunes.apple.com

Starmap

Like other apps, point your phone at the sky at night and it will tell you where you where you are and what you’re looking at. Check out maps of all the 88 modern constellations – over 100,000 stars.  This app is for more experienced astronomers as well as armchair stargazers.
For iOS 9 and above, price starts at .99 cents. iPhone, iPad

Pocket Universe

This app is good for both beginners and more advanced astronomers.  It has a great deal of information.  It has an enormous searchable data base along with a night vision mode and a digital compass.
$2.99 for iPhone & iPad

Google Sky Map

This is a free app for Android phones. It will identify whatever you’re pointing your phone at in the sky.  Users can also use the search function to find something specific.

Planets

This free app gives you a 3D guide to the solar system. It provides in-depth information on all the planets.  Select either 2D or 3D mode.  The Globe function lets you view a rotating 3D image of all the planets and the moon. Only on App Store for iOS devices.

Header Photo by Jeremy Thomason Unsplash

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