Most Used Astronomy Apps

One of the most frequent questions I receive is which apps to use for stargazing and astronomy. Here’s my top 8 most used apps with a brief description of what I use them for.

SkySafari 6 – My main planetarium app that lets me see what’s up on a particular evening and plan my excursions under the stars. It also comes with useful telescope control functionality.

Dark Sky Map – Let’s me see areas of light pollution in my local area and further afield. Essential if you’re planning to stargaze somewhere you’ve never been before so you can guage darkness levels and avoid pesky light pollution.

Park4night – Once you’ve decided on a dark location getting off the road and parked can be a massive headache, especially where I live in the Highlands of Scotland where there’s plenty of dark areas but very little access. This app will show you lay-bys and parking spots for brief stops or overnight parks.

Glendale App – One of the best Aurora alert apps for tracking down the elusive northern lights.ISS Detector – My main app for seeking out and planning International Space Station passes. Works from your home location or anywhere in the world.

Clear Outside – One of the best weather apps aimed at stargazing. Summarises different altitudes of cloud cover, Moon brightness, wind and precipitation and provides you with a simple traffic light system for each night.

Compass Galaxy – I have a Samsung phone but any compass app will do to help you find north out in the field.

Phases of the Moon – The presence of the Moon is a huge deal. For Milky Way observing and deep sky astronomy you want to avoid the Moon and this app will quickly tell you the phase and rise and set times at your local position.

I should add that I’m in no way affiliated with any of these apps or software companies. This is just an honest peek into what I use to help me enjoy the night sky. I hope you find it useful.

Milky Way

In the Scottish Highlands we’re blessed with many dark locations from which to view the Milky Way, the band of diffuse light revealing our place within a giant spiral galaxy.

Even if you live in a busy city like Inverness, a short drive is all that’s needed to escape to relatively dark skies. Regrettably, in many parts of the UK and central Europe this important connection with our home galaxy has been rubbed out due to light pollution.

Looking up at the Milky Way lets us connect with something vast and far bigger than ourselves – an important check on our own sense of self importance.

More needs to be done to curtail unnecessary outdoor lighting and to educate people on the basics of dark sky preservation. ┬áRetaining access to our night skies needn’t be an economically crippling ideal. ┬áThere are simple practical steps people can take that make dramatic differences. ┬áPlease see this excellent guide on the International Dark Sky Association website for tips on how you can help.

I’ve made a short video celebrating our views of the Milky Way and how overwhelmed our position is amidst an estimated two trillion other galaxies in the observable universe.