I have a special affinity for the night sky. I don’t really know what causes it, but astronomy has always fascinated me. So ever since I discovered star map applications, I’ve had to have one on any device I have. For the iPad, that app is Sky-map.
A fairly simple app, Sky-map uses your GPS location and the orientation of your iPad to figure out what astronomical features you would be seeing if you looked in the same direction as the iPad is looking, at night. You can toggle specific features on and off — you can pick if you want to see stars, galaxies, planets, constellations, nebulae, a horizon line, a latitude/longitude grid, and whether or not you want to be able to touch and drag the map rather than moving it by rotating. When viewing something, you can zoom in and out with the normal multi-touch commands of pinch and spread.
You can also search for any specific space object (e.g. Mars) and Sky-map will point you towards the object by placing a red circle with an arrow in the middle of your screen. Turn the iPad to follow the arrow, or drag the map in that direction if you have touch enabled, and the red circle will turn yellow then green when you get closer, and finally the arrow will go away when you find the astronomical feature you’re searching for.
While I was playing with the app, I searched for the constellation Draco (…Dragonheart is my favorite movie…), the planet Saturn, and the dog star, Sirius. I had a lot of fun dragging the map around and seeing all the different constellations.
The best thing about this app is that if you’re standing outside under the night sky and see a really bright object, you can turn on orientation navigation, hold the iPad up so that you’re looking in the same direction, and it will show you what star or planet that bright object is. The star I looked at from my backyard? It turned out to not be a star at all. It was Venus, and the app showed me where Mars was in relation to Venus. I proceeded to spot the constellation Orion, as well as the Big Dipper. Without this app, I might not have realized that the three stars I stare at almost every night are actually Orion’s belt.
All in all, I highly recommend this app for people who enjoy gazing at the night sky and would like to know what exactly it is they’re looking at.
Version reviewed: 1.2
Requires: iOS 4.3 or later
Download size: 36.1 MB