Unlike other branches of physics, astronomy interests people who have spent years studying it. Yes, there are a number of geeks, like myself, who in spite of not being physics scholars or astronomy students, still keep their eyes glued to the night sky marveling upon the wonders of the great heavens above. Earlier, we used to carry our collapsible telescopes to the roofs every night, and the days would be spent combing through the internet or the encyclopedias in the local library for essays and pictures on our favorite topic.
But now, when we need to consult a night sky map, or look at pictures of satellites, all we need to do is whip out our smartphones and launch an app. There are several apps that will appeal to astronomy buffs, but I have compiled a list of the 8 that I like best. Try them out, and don’t forget to come back and comment on how you liked them!
Just as your search engine browses all of the internet for you, Aladin searches all the astronomy databases and astronomy related sites to find you what you are looking for, in addition to letting you view professional quality telescopes at the wavelength of your choice.
In Wiki format, Sky_Map makes use of your browser to accumulate information from several users to catalogue and display all the heavenly bodies in their correct positions. It is slightly unwieldy but still extremely useful and interesting, especially if you are interested in maps of the night sky.
Also known as Sky chart, Cartes du Ciel is a free planetarium software that is very easy to use. It can analyse your sky maps, and index them down to the last one. Cartes du Ciel can run on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.
Home Planet is not as realistic an app as many of the others, as symbols rather than images are used to signify solar systems and other cluster of heavenly bodies. However, its light weight and portability more than make up for that.
5. Computer aided Astronomy
Also known as C2A, this app can generate tables for the sun, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids, and also the trajectories that they have or will be moving in between two given dates. It has tools for static view as well as animated view.
This app does not have any live viewing facilities, rather it has a huge database of telescopic photographs taken from all over the world, so that you can view the night sky from all possible angles. All the same, it makes for great browsing.
With more than six hundred thousand stars, Stellarium gives you a reasonable accurate looking version of the sky. The interesting thing about this tool is that it lists constellations from non-english speaking cultures as well.
Not satisfied with just looking at the stars? Want to go for a ride into space? Treat the child inside you with the Celestia space flight simulator which makes it seem as if you are actually taking a trip through the stars.