The Best Apps to Download Before Your Next Stargazing Adventure
Whether you're an expert or just dabbling, you need these stargazing apps for your next trip.
Whether you're a full-blown pro—with the equipment, experience, and Dark Sky knowledge to prove it—or are just now giving stargazing a go, having actually reliable resources (you know, not just some guy's typo-ridden Wordpress blog) is important. With a little help from this crazy thing called technology, you don't even need a fancy, overpriced telescope to spot a constellation.
From SkySafari Plus to Star Chart, these interactive smartphone apps will provide a roadmap for your cosmic exploration. Here are the most informative and user-friendly ones in the app store right now—according to user reviews, a few Thrillist space aficionados, and astronomy experts.
Rated: 4.7 stars with 12.4k ratings
SkySafari, a paid but totally worth it astronomy app, was personally recommended by astronomy podcaster Richard Drumm, who calls it his "planetarium app of choice." It uses professional-grade telescope software that, when held up to the sky, allows you to identify stars, constellations, and planets. It also allows you to learn about the history, mythology, and science of what you're looking at and will notify you of any upcoming stargazing events.
Rated: 4.6 stars with 12.3k ratings
Sky View works similarly to SkySafari, but given its much cheaper price tag (or, non-existent one, I should say) it is lacking some of SkySafari's more complex capabilities. The app does, however, still help you identify celestial objects in the sky. It similarly offers a night mode, augmented reality, and photo capturing.
Rated: 4.7 stars with 24.9k ratings
Sky Walk has an extensive library of info with deets on 200,000 celestial bodies—including how to spot them, what to know, and important dates. If you upgrade to a Star Walk Plus subscription, you'll get an added astronomical calendar with the latest on all things stargazing.
Rated: 4.8 stars with 4k ratings
Stellarium Plus will get you up to speed on what you're actually seeing up there. The planetarium app, which shows you exactly what you are looking at up in the stars, features a comprehensive guide to constellations, planets, comets, satellites, and other deep sky objects.
Rated: 4.6 stars with 18.2k ratings
While similar to the other apps in that it's an augmented reality astrology app (aka you can point your device at the sky to know exactly what you're looking at), it also boasts the ability to explore the sky's history—you can move 10,000 years forward or backward in time. It has also got a powerful zoom function and includes a full virtual star chart, naturally, given the name, and can show you where in the sky your star sign is.
Rated: 4.4 stars with 826 ratings
Described as a "personal planetarium," the Night Sky app is a one-stop-shop for identifying everything going on up there. It'll help you navigate the dark skies and spot stars, planets, constellations, and satellites, will notify you when Starlink satellites are about to fly over your current location, and can show you where the Aurora is currently most visible. The app has also won a Webby Award in 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018.
Get Night Sky in the App Store.
Rated: 4.7 stars with 356 ratings
For just $1.99, the Star Rover app is like having a telescope in your pocket: You can just point your smart device at the sky and get automatic location updates. You can also time travel to see what the sky looks like on different dates and times.
Rated: 4.5 stars with 54.1k ratings
Cost: Free or pro available for $2.99
The Star Tracker app, which you can download for free or upgrade to the plus version for $2.99, allows you to see the Sun, Moon, planets, 88 constellations, and 8,000+ stars with your naked eye. Plus, it's got GPS tracking and an AR mode.