Sky map: The planetarium in your pocket

Most people only visit a planetarium once per blue moon, but they see and marvel at starry skies much more often. But those with little knowledge of astronomy probably don’t know exactly what they’re looking at.

That’s why it’s worth installing Sky Map, a free app that turns any Android smartphone into a pocket planetarium. With the sky map in hand, it is no longer difficult to identify stars, planets and nebulae.

You can enter the name of a planet, star, or constellation in a full-text search, then move your smartphone across the night sky until you see a search circle with a direction indicator in arrow points you in the right direction.

The map can be zoomed in and out, and it automatically moves with the user, provided your phone has a compass (most do). The map can also be moved manually. This is useful if you want to explore areas of the night sky far from your own location.

Speaking of location, the app gets the location of the phone from its GPS data. Alternatively, you can also enter the location manually by longitude and latitude or place name.

The app was originally developed by a Google project team in cooperation with Carnegie Mellon University. However, since 2012 Sky Map is an open source project maintained by volunteers. – dpa

Arline J. Mercier