App of the Week: Sky Guide is a home planetarium for your iPhone or iPad

A person holds their iPad up to the sky, with Sky Guide running

Staring up into the night sky on a clear night is one of my favorite pastimes. There’s something about staring into a field of black dotted with points of light that never ceases to amaze me. But it can be hard to remember all the constellations and major stars. After all, it’s easy enough to spot Ursa Major or Orion’s belt, but what’s next from there?

Sky Guideappmat is a digital planetarium for the iPhone and iPad that makes it easy to see all the stars and constellations nearby. When users first fire up the app, they’ll be asked to let it access their location, and it will then show them a 360 degree map of all the stars and constellations around them. Users interested in learning more about a particular star or constellation can tap on it to pull out a drawer with plenty of facts.

Sky Guide won an Apple Design Award this year, and it’s easy to see why. The app is intuitive, smooth and easy to pick up, but capable of providing some deeper features to users who want to seek them out. The app also sounds great. Each star has a different musical note associated with it, so it’s possible to literally play the music of the spheres. The app also features a calming soundtrack that’s a nice backdrop to exploring any sort of celestial environment.

People who want to use the app in the dark without ruining their night vision can turn on Sky Guide’s night vision mode, which replaces all of the app’s bright white areas with red light that won’t harm a user’s ability to see in the dark. It’s a good way to use Sky Guide as a reference tool on an outdoor trip, and fellow stargazers will thank you for not messing with their eyesight.


kiroradioApp of the Week is a regular feature of the GeekWire radio show and podcast, airing every weekend on KIRO-FM (97.3) in Seattle. Listen to this week’s segment below, or via this MP3 file.

Sky Guide can also show more than just what’s overhead right now. The app also has the ability to display the stars above a location at any time or place until 0 CE, and can project forward well into the future. That means it’s possible to bone up on nearby constellations for taking a date stargazing next week, or figure out what a Venetian would see when they looked up into the sky on Christmas Eve in 1302.

Dedicated space buffs can pay an additional $1.99 to unlock the app’s satellite tracker. The feature allows users to see when the International Space Station and other objects humans shot into space will be making their next passes overhead. It’s a cool way to figure out what that bright light moving across the sky happens to be.

Really, I can only see two reasons for someone to avoid buying Sky Guide. Either they hate looking at stars, or they don’t have room for it on their iOS device.

Sky Guide is available for $1.99 from the iOS App Store.

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