App Showdown: Star Gazers



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Does anyone know if this app or any other app, you can put in the coordinates of a particular star and it will help you find it? Friends purchased one for me and I would love to be able to find it.


J Keirn-Swanson

I've tried in all four apps to enter celestial coordinates and haven't had any luck finding anything. I think basically the idea of the apps is that they are for amateurs who are unlikely to know or understand that information, but do know the name of a star or constellation they might want to find.



What about SkySafari? That is my personal favorite of all the ones I’ve tried. I have installed numerous star gazer apps, including Star Chart, Star Walk, Stellarium, SkyView Free, and SkySafari. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

SkyView is nice because it works for any phone orientation, meaning you can hold your phone diagonally at arbitrary angles and the view aligns with the sky properly, whereas most other sky apps snap to vertical or horizontal orientation only. Additionally, the “augmented reality” mode wherein the sky objects are overlaid atop the current view through the phone’s camera is very nice. Unfortunately the camera is not sensitive enough to pick up actual stars in the night sky. This app also has no ability to zoom in or out for a closer look at the sky. The free version has an extremely limited catalog of objects, which does not even include any planets. I have not tried the paid version, which has more objects, but still not a comprehensive catalog. This app is cute, and nice for impressing people with its augmented reality mode, but does not cut it for real use.

Star Chart has the most beautiful (in my opinion) constellation illustrations, but also has an annoying “feature” whereby the view jumps to the nearest constellation, and does not stay centered where you point the phone. It can show the sky at any phone orientation, not just vertical and horizontal. However it has only a modest catalog of objects. For example, it does not contain the Galilean moons of Jupiter, and the image of Jupiter itself is very poor.

Stellarium is fairly bland, without much to distinguish it. When you search for an astronomical object, it unfortunately centers the view on that object, rather than providing an arrow so you know which way to turn in order to find it. This does contain the Galilean moons of Jupiter, but the image quality is very poor even on Jupiter itself. The view works in vertical or horizontal mode, but does not compensate for diagonal alignment.

Star Walk provides the better search results, with an arrow toward the object, but has a fairly small catalog and little ability to zoom in. It does not contain the Galilean moons of Jupiter, although the image of Jupiter is sharp. The view works only in horizontal mode, it does not even have the ability to switch to vertical mode, let alone any sort of diagonal.

SkySafari is, in my experience, far and away the best of those I have tried. It has a vast catalog of objects, it allows zooming in extremely close or all the way out to a fish-eye view, and it has an extensive range of customizable settings. The only drawback is that the view works in horizontal and vertical modes, but not diagonal. It has gorgeous high-quality images not only for Jupiter, but for each of the Galilean moons as well.

I have not tried Pocket Universe nor Night Sky. However, I am so happy with SkySafari that I have no desire to try anymore star gazer apps.


J Keirn-Swanson

Thanks for the indepth comments Qaanol! While we'd like to review all the apps that do similar things, space prevents us from getting to them unless we were satisfied with just the briefest of overviews. We try to find rough equivalents for the articles, but we're always on the lookout for apps we've missed or haven't heard of or seen. Thanks for the tips. I'll be giving SkySafari and look.

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