Best Astronomy Apps

Middle and High School astronomy courses rely on visualization, particularly when it comes to seeing the “images” in constellations and orbital trajectories. This five app bunch is perfect for students who want to more clearly see the planets and stars, as well as learn the history, present and future of space programs.

Gravity App ($7.99 iPad)

This app is an incredibly powerful and accurate simulation of planetary motion. The interface is unique, and features sci-fi sound effects and and an alien greenish glow. Exploring orbital motions and the effects of gravity has never been this much fun. It creates a celestial playground in which the user can control the characteristics and motions of planets as they orbit the Sun. You can easily alter the mass, velocity and heading of both the planets and the sun. You can even add additional planets to explore how more complex solar systems would function.

(Curated by Michael Sammartano)

Sky Guide: View Stars Night Or Day ($1.99 iPhone, iPad)

Of the many night sky viewing app available, Sky Guide is certainly the simplest and most beautiful. The app contains high quality imagery, concise but rich information and a unique and very responsive user interface. Sky Guide is a planetarium app that allows the user to explore the celestial objects in the night sky. With the tap of a button, the app locates your position on Earth and adjusts the sky view to match what you’re seeing. Point your iPhone towards different parts of the sky and the app follows you, showing you the stars and planets in your field of view. Tapping on an object reveals detailed information written by a variety astronomy authors.

(Curated by Michael Sammartano)

Stellarium Mobile Sky Map ($2.58 Android Tablet, Android Handheld)

Stellarium is another planetarium app, meaning it allows you to view all the celestial objects in the night sky, and a fitting Android alternative to Sky Guide on iOS. This is a very nicely done app which would work well in the classroom. This app will require some guidance and explanation, but will show students the stars and the constellations. The quick bar features provide a good variety of views to demonstrate to the students how constellations are set up. Kids can have a hard time trying to visualize the stars and their corresponding constellations. This helpful app allows students to see the night sky where they are and how everything fits together.

(Curated by Larry SawyerMichael Sammartano)

Sun Seeker: 3D Augmented Reality Viewer ($6.99 iPad)

Understanding how and why the sun appears to move across the sky each day is a significant challenge for kids and adults alike. Sun Seeker offers a fun and easy way to visualize the apparent path of the sun for any date and time and from any location. Because of the earth’s rotation, the sun appears to rise and set each day, tracing an arc across the sky. This path is different depending on the time of year and the place from which it is observed. Sun Seeker uses a variety of interactive animations and augmented reality to demonstrate this tough idea.

(Curated by Michael Sammartano)

Man In Space ($5.99 iPad)

No high school astronomy course is complete without a look at the manned space program. Man in Space is a stunning digital magazine that serves as an interactive chronology of human space exploration. From the early rocket science of Werner Von Braun to the first flight of Ham the chimp, Man in space chronicles every step of human space exploration. The digital magazine is broken into eight sections, each examining major milestones and advances in space flight. Each section includes extensive articles, complete with wonderful photography and relevant video clips. Along the journey, you can explore interactive models of the spacecraft and scroll through a variety of unique and rare photographs. The final section, Flying into the Future, considers the next steps in space exploration including the many new commercial ventures that will likely play a major role.

(Curated by Michael Sammartano)

(This content was originally posted at

About Stephen Danos

Stephen Danos is the Associate Editor for and Appolicious. He has contributed to articles published on TechCrunchThe Chicago Sun TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. He received his BA in English from the University of Iowa and MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming).



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