This super stargazing app is the most detailed around, and even remotely controls GoTo telescopes
If you travel to remote locations – on hikes, into national parks, or to islands – you’re sure to have noticed the night sky. There are so many beginner-level planetarium apps around now that finding out some basic information about the stars above is easy, and yet taking the next step is tricky. Cue SkySafari 5.
Is this is best stargazing app of them all? It surely is – no app goes as deep. Available for phones and tablets on iOS/Android, this expensive ‘pro’ version offers everything from hands-free control of GoTo telescopes to super-extensive data on everything from nearby stars and planets to distant Messier objects you’re only likely to see through a powerful telescope.
The big drawback is that SkySafari 5 does take up a mighty 1.7GB on a device. However, this is the only app so far to challenge desktop software like Cartes du Ciel and Stellarium by remotely controlling computerised GoTo telescopes.
However, it won’t control just any telescope. First, you need to buy an adaptor; SkyFi (for WiFi, £299), SkyBT (for Bluetooth, £129) or SkyWire (which connects to a phone or tablet using a cable, £59), then attach it to the serial port of a telescope from the likes of Celestron, Meade, Orion or SkyWatcher (or anything with a RS-232 interface). You can then target specific objects in the sky using only the app.
Sky Safari 5 is also a fabulous all-round app for stargazers. Perhaps the most useful feature is an ability to create observing lists that sync across devices, though I love the notifications options. You can be standing anywhere in the world and the app will send a post-sunset alert five minutes in advance of, say, the International Space Station or an Iridium satellite flying over your location (the first is super-bright and an awesome sight, while the latter produces a memorable flash).
It’s also endowed with marvellous images from the Digitized Sky Survey, and you can virtually orbit an object – and even get a map of where exactly a night sky object is in relation to the Sun and the Milky Way. It’s too in-depth for some, but Sky Safari 5 is the perfect investment if you’re serious about stargazing and astronomy.