I honestly didn't see this day coming, a day when I could say that a person could hold a phone up to the skies to find out what was up there. Today's column is about an app I use for my iPhone and iPad called "Star Walk." I don't often write about applications, but I feel that this is something readers of this column can use ---- and it is dirt cheap.
", an app by Vito Technology
, allows any layperson to navigate the skies above, day or night, without having to spend a couple hundred bucks to do so.
"Star Walk" opens up with what is called Sky Live, a beautifully illustrated summary of information about the day's rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, and the location of the naked-eye planets.
But the beauty doesn't end there by any means. The next window takes you right to the sky. When I first got the app, I just used the touch screen to move around the heavens and see the different constellations and stars and planets, a virtual star chart of the entire sky.
And when you hold your device up, the GPS and gyroscopes kick in to make your local skies alive. Suddenly, wherever you point the device, there is on your screen in full color, the very sky in front of you, illustrated and labeled. (And you can see even the skies below the horizon since Star Walk is not limited to the visible sky.)
That will keep you busy for long enough, but there's more. Tapping on a constellation or star or other point of interest will allow you to get information on that object. Using the search button will help you find all kinds of objects by directing you to them with an on-screen arrow. Want to know where Cygnus the Swan is? Enter it and "Star Walk" takes you there.
Other handy extras include a night vision mode to make it easier for your eyes to go between screen and dark sky. You can follow various satellites. A sliding clock can take your sky forward and backward in time. There is an adjustable visual magnitude bar for better representing how dark ---- or how light-polluted ---- your sky might be.
The latest version has a gift for us nerdy backyard astronomers ---- a full spectrum scroll. Here you can "see" how the heavens look in all kinds of wavelengths from gamma ray all the way down to radio waves.
The bad news for some readers is that Star Walk is only available for the iPhone
. (The iPad version is stunning.) The good news is that it's just $3 for the iPhone, $5 for the iPad. You cannot beat that price.
It is available at the iTunes Store
. Go get it and start exploring!