Enhancing Your Stargazing Experience with Mobile Technology

One cannot deny that we live in a techno-centric world. Everything from banking to grocery shopping can be done via the internet nowadays and communication is dominated by texting, emails and social networking sites.

In the last few years, the smart phone has become increasingly popular, offering people the opportunity to access the internet from wherever they go, along with an app for any occasion.

A mobile phone may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about astronomy, but with over 85% of handsets now offering internet access, many with the ability to support apps, it can be a highly useful tool in getting more out of your experience, whether you’re an amateur enthusiast or a seasoned astronomer.

On a very clear night it is thought that around 2000 stars can be seen with the unaided eye alone. Add a pair of binoculars or a telescope and this number increases. The majority of people will be able to pick out some of the more prominent stars and constellations, such as Polaris or the Big Dipper, but chances are that the rest will be a mystery to you. This is where the (not-so) humble mobile phone can come into play.

Many apps are available concerning astronomy and can be found through a simple search of the Apple or Android store, depending on what operating system your particular model of phone is compatible with. The three apps that are currently most popular are as follows:

Google Sky Map

Google Sky Map for Android based phones allows users to identify stars, planets and other celestial objects by holding the phone up to the sky. If you have a particular planet or star that you would like to observe, this app has a search feature that directs you to what you are looking for with a big red arrow to guide you in the right direction.

Star Walk

If you have an iPhone or iPad, the Star Walk app offers the same identification process to the Google Sky Map but with the addition of extra features including a spectrum bar which allows users to view frequencies other than visible light via a colour change, a calendar showing upcoming celestial events and a feature that allows the user to measure the angular distance between nearby stars.


GoSatWatch is another Apple based app, which allows users to track satellites. You can select a satellite to see its expected orbit, or use the overhead function in order to see what is in the sky nearest to you. You can even set it to alert you to a satellite passing over.


If your mobile handset does not support apps, this does not mean to say you cannot get an enhanced experience using it. If your phone has internet capabilities, you can easily access useful websites from your observation site, whether it’s your garden shed or an observatory. Try bookmarking websites that provide you with sky coordinates, such as Heavens Above, or ones which allow you to input coordinates to identify what you are looking at, such as Stellarium.