I’ve got something of an addiction to stargazing apps. While some app addicts have a folder for Twitter apps or Pinboard apps, I’ve got a folder simply labeled “Stars.” The thing is, I’m not an astronomer. I know as much about the stars as I do about neuroscience — almost nothing. I can point out the Big Dipper. My closest friend is a serious stargazer, and she’s always pointing things out to me, but the Big Dipper is embarrassingly about as far as I can get on my own.
These apps, then, have really helped me out on my journey to learn more about the night sky. They’re equally informative and always brilliantly designed. The ones that have an iPad interface are always stellar there as well, but I mostly fiddle on my iPhone, which is like staring into a portal in our own universe. It blows me away. But the problem is, living in the city, I rarely know when I can go check out stars. There’s no “forecast app for stargazers.” Or at least, there never used to be. Recently, I’ve been using Sky Live, a beautiful app that helps me know when I should leave my house. Read on to find out why this is a must-try for night owls.
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Night Sky Forecasts
Sky Live does not have a built in virtual reality stargazer. Those are all separate apps, and there are some really good ones. So I understand that it might take a little bit of convincing to get you to think it’s worth letting the app take up space on your iPhone, but I’m willing to try.
Having a forecast of the stars might sound impractical to you, but I think that’s a little short-sighted. If I may explain a little bit of my own experience with this app, I hope that’ll help clear things up. My closest friend is an experienced stargazer and she can point out constellations without a problem, but even she still has some basic questions before we go out: is the sky clear enough? What will we be able to see? What part of its cycle is the moon in? When is the best time to try and see Mars?
These questions are all things that Sky Live answers in a beautiful interface that’s very reminiscent of many popular weather apps. The app presents information in a list format, and even answers the questions as to what perfect conditions actually are (tapping that question takes you to this webpage in Safari). While what makes a perfect night for stargazing is somewhat obvious, the app really spells out whether or not those conditions are being met. During the Canadian winters that I’m used to, that’s actually a big help.
Some of the information in the app is extremely in-depth. For example, you’ll get to see when planets are over the horizon and most visible — down to the minute. The visibility index is a huge plus, and one that is a clear guideline as to whether or not heading out to check out the night sky is worth your time. And all of this is presented in a beautiful, easy-to-use interface that I love looking at.
Designing a Stargazing Forecast
Vito Technology have really outdone themselves with this design, which is simply beautiful. It uses pictures of the solar system as in-app wallpapers, which is just gorgeous. What you can’t see in the screenshots, though, is the slight touch of parallax applied to the wallpaper in the app. Again, this is slight, and nowhere near as egregious as the amount Apple has used for the home screen effects. It’s just subtle enough to make the app more immersive without giving you a headache, and it looks incredible.
Each picture is hand-picked and given its own description, which make for fascinating reads. Beyond that, though, the interface is incredibly simply. Just scroll up to read more about the night sky conditions. With just one tap, you can even turn on or off certain datasets. Don’t need the weather information? Turn it off. Prefer to see the forecast for the moon up top? Just adjust that in the Settings. It’s really easy to do and incredibly useful.
The app automatically searches for your location, although it also allows you to search for any place and find information you need. All your searched cities are kept in an easily-accessible list to help you get to the information you need right away. My friend is from South Africa, so I have Johannesburg available for quick and easy access to what it’s like back home for her.
The app works in tandem with Vito Technology’s other stargazing apps, Star Walk and Solar Walk. Although you can use the app as a reference for other stargazing tools (which, of course, I have several of), it works best with those. When you use all three together, you might end up having the best trio of solar reference guides available on the App Store.
Not everybody is going to need an app like Sky Live, but those of us who do are going to be absolutely in love with this app. Vito Technology has made a beautiful reference tool, with attention to detail that turns a simple app into pure craftsmanship.
With that in mind, Sky Live is on the App Store for $1.99. At the time of writing, the app’s in-app purchases are absolutely free for a limited time, but that’s a rarity — regardless, it’s all worth every penny for novice and pro stargazers alike.