Looking forward to stargazing with your kids while you're traveling this summer? The free SkyView app turns your smartphone or tablet into a brilliant guide to the night sky. It's like a telescope in your pocket, only better.
Kids love being able to spot planets and stars that they have learned about in school, but you don't have to fret if you can't tell the difference between Saturn and Sirius, the Great Dog Star. With this crazy-smart astronomy app, just point your device upward and SkyView will label and magnify planets, stars, satellites, and other key objects in the sky above.
Using your location to overlay your personal view of the sky onto your camera view, the app can be used anywhere in the world. It even outlines all 88 constellations, so you can easily find Orion, Draco the Dragon or the Southern Cross. Genius!
SkyView is available free for iOS and Android. On the Apple version, you can use 3D Touch on the SkyView icon to access your favorite sky objects, then take a shortcut to the Today widget, which provides a list of planets, stars and satellites visible in your location that night.
To use the Spotlight feature, just swipe downward on your home screen and search for any celestial object, such as Capella or Orion. When you touch a SkyView search result, the app will open and select the object, while also providing information about it.
As the night sky darkens, switch to Night Vision view, which lets you switch your gaze from your device to the sky without your eyes needing to adjust.
You can also use SkyView to view the annual Geminids or Perseid meteor showers. Select the Magnifying Glass icon in the upper right and search for the Gemini or Perseus constellation, then sit back and watch. At the peak of the Perseid shower, for instance, you can view as many as 100 visible meteors per hour.
But wait, there's more. Curious about all the "space junk" out there? Turn on the debris satellite filter and see just how messy we earthlings are. SkyView's software includes an extensive database with information on over 20,000 objects in space, including man-made orbiting items such as weather satellites, communication satellites, navigation satellites, and space debris. It's all available in real time in both interactive 3D and augmented reality views.
Interested in the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station? You can view and learn more about these objects with incredible magnified graphics as they orbit the Earth.
For optimal viewing, choose a location away from cities, where there is little or no light pollution. National parks and other low-population wilderness areas are ideal.