Today is International Astronomy Day, so lets celebrate by looking up. Created in 1973, the holiday’s mission involves sharing the joy of astronomy with the general public; astronomy clubs, planetariums, leagues, and observatories will offer anything from free admission to telescope rentals. You can look for IAD events at your local observatories and planetariums or check out NASA’s Night Sky Club to find astro-events and star parties in your neighborhood.
Don’t have the leisure to go sky watching in person? There are some apps for you. Fly through space, get a 3-D view of the Crab Nebula, or walk on the moon. These fun and innovative apps are sure to wake up your inner astronaut. Lift off in T-minus 3… 2… 1…
A visual feast of constellations, nebulae, and moving satellites, this app is easy to use and full of information. SkyGuide isn’t just nice to look at; the developers used over 37,000 real satellite images and a catalog of over 1 million stars to enhance the users experience. “Follow Sky” mode uses your exact location and gives you a real-time image of what is right in front of you, helping you identify any celestial object with ease. Track the International Space Station in real time and other satellites that orbit our Earth. Each constellation, planet, star, and deep space object comes with its own informative page. Learn everything from an objects light-year distance to the mythological stories behind those funny shapes in the sky.
Star Walk 2
Star Walk 2 has a similar layout to SkyGuide but offers its own special features. View the night sky from a pristine lake view while the constellations glitter to life. Search through a vast list of stars, planets, moons, and constellations, and zoom into where you want to go. See how objects in the sky change when viewed with a different spectrum of light. Alternate between X-ray, gamma, infrared, and several other types of light to see how different space can look. Want to go more in-depth? Meteor showers, deep sky objects, and satellite tracking are available for an additional in-app fee.
A true Encyclopedia Galactica, this is astronomy software for your phone. Redshift boasts a database of more than 100,000 stars, 500 deep sky objects, and all major and dwarf planets. The top feature of this behemoth of apps is the 3-D flight mode; select any object from a myriad of asteroids to Saturn and zip there from the safety of Earth’s gravity. With this amount of information and fun intergalactic flights, it’s hard to put this one down.
Forget about your elementary school model of the Solar System. SolarWalk will put that Styrofoam mobile to shame with its 3-D tour of our spot in the Milky Way. Turn planets upside down, follow their orbits, and zoom all the way out of our solar system to view the galaxy as a whole. One of the perks of this app is the option for purchasing add-ons like going to Mars and following the Curiosity rover while it collects data. SolarWalk even offers the chance to meet up with the elusive Halley’s comet, only visible to Earth every 75 years. Follow the comet’s trail and learn all about it before it shows up again in 2061.
Wonders of the Universe
Go exploring around the universe with astrophysicist Brian Cox. Wonders of the Universe plays more like a TV show and an astronomy class rolled into one. Watch the red giant Betelgeuse explode into a supernova, witness a black hole in action, or travel to the edges of our known universe to learn how stars are made. The app also includes images from NASA and infographics to complete your astronomical education.