Point your phone at the sky and SkyView Free will use your GPS location to display a representative map of the celestial objects in front of you, with their names. The app—great for newbies—connects the starry dots of various constellations on your screen, making it easy to imagine say, the hunter figure of Orion. You can witness satellite fly-bys (See Spot the Station below for more) or view the trajectory of the moon or a planet. Use camera mode to snap pictures of the night sky and share them on social media. One of the coolest features of the app is the time travel setting that shows users how the sky would have looked in the past, or how celestial arrangement will appear in the future.
Available on iOS and Android.
Pocket Universe functions like SkyView Free: Position your device against a patch of sky to see tiny names pop up next to various stars and planets. It’s the extra features that make it fun. The “Tonight’s Sky” and “Objects and Events” tabs remind users of imminent meteor showers and other celestial wonders in their part of the world. There are fun quizzes to make identifying constellations easy, 360°-virtual views of the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, and 3D models of the solar system —minus Pluto, which the app doesn’t recognise as a planet.
Available for₹190 on iOS.
American space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is often the first name that comes to mind when we think of space. Download the app to keep track of the agency’s activities. Spend hours browsing through spectacular space images (14,000 and counting) that can also be saved on your phone. Watch rocket launches live-stream on NASA TV, or take a break by tuning into Third Rock Radio, NASA’s official alternative rock music station.
Available on iOS, Android and Kindle Fire.
The International Space Station (ISS)—a science lab for astronauts from various countries—orbits our planet at a speed of five miles per second, which means it orbits the Earth every 90 minutes or so. Naturally, that makes it near impossible to pinpoint in the sky, unless you knew where to look. Website Spot The Station lets people sign up for alerts telling them when the ISS will be in their vicinity. Once you get the alert, use apps like SkyView Free and Pocket Universe to pick out the flying laboratory as it races across the sky.
Indian Sky Map shows the Hindi names of various stars, planets and constellations. It works like SkyView Free and Pocket Universe—just point your phone at a celestial object to know its name. Choose what you want to see by highlighting options in the left menu bar: there are stars, planets, and constellations. The app doesn’t give you any information about what you’re looking at apart from the name, but it’s still useful for budding Indian astronomers and astrologers.
Available on Android.
The Moon Atlas app tells us about our closest celestial neighbor, which remains a mystery. Spin the model of the moon on your screen to choose a crater to zoom into for more information. The data about lunar features and spacecraft that have landed on the moon are within the app, and can therefore be accessed without an internet connection. Available on iOS (₹370)
Kamakshi Ayyar is a former member of NGT India's digital team. She is partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.