Which database of celestial objects do stargazing apps use?

Which database of celestial objects do stargazing apps use?

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Stargazing apps such as Star Walk must have a database with a list of celestial objects, their names and details and each of their celestial coordinates.

I am interested to know which database these apps use as I am looking to build my own stargazing app for a computing project.

It would be great if someone could help me with this.


The Hipparcos is probably all that's really needed. A lot of them add in portions of the Tycho catalog as well. But even the Hipparcos catalog has more stars than what most armatures will need, and it's generally impractical memory wise to use the whole thing. To really go crazy, a torrent for the NOMAD catalog is available. All of those list only individual stars. For things like galaxies and nebula the NCG catalog should do, but there are also the Index Catalogue, and Hershel Catalogs. The most popular catalog would be the Messier, which has no official distribution sources (that I know of), but databases are available if you search this one for example.

If you don't care about the original sources, Stellarium has their star catalogs on their wiki.

11 Best Stargazing Apps in 2021

You can marvel at the beauty of the space with the best stargazing apps by simply pointing your smartphone at the sky and watching the stars, constellations, planets and satellites right on the screen.

These apps have an augmented reality feature that allows them to automatically detect where you are and display a map of the sky above you so you can see all the celestial objects in detail. You don't need to be an astronomical genius or have a telescope to see the stars with these applications everyone, even small children, can enjoy the view of the night sky.

1. SkyView

The first app on the list is one of Apple App Store’s Best of 2012 and Google Editor’s Choice in 2017 – the SkyView app. It also has a lot of positive reviews from the users.

With the use of augmented reality and your smartphone’s camera, you can easily see the paths and coordinates of stars and other objects, as well as detailed information about them. It also has a “Time Travel” feature that shows what the sky is like in any given time.

Stargazers and those who like to venture out in the mountains won’t have any problem with the app since it doesn’t require an internet connection or GPS to function. Furthermore, if you have Space Navigator binoculars and telescopes, mounting your phone on the equipment can make your stargazing experience easier.

If you have a celestial body in mind that you want to see right away (or even the ISS), the app can locate it for you via manual search. Its user-friendly and customizable interface lets you change the size of the objects that you see, as well as offering different modes and filters for the better viewing experience.

What Do You Need for Your Stargazing Date

Here is a cheat sheet of the things you should prepare for your stargazing date:

  • Someone to take on a date, pretty self-explanatory
  • Means of transportation
  • Layers of clothing depending on the temperature outside
  • Waterproof blanket (to sit on) and extra blankets to keep you and the date warm
  • Foldable chairs if possible
  • Some music (can use your phone)
  • Bug repellent
  • Adequate food, snacks, and drinks
  • The necessary smartphone apps to help your stargazing experience (i.e. star chart app)
  • Garbage bag

With that being said, here are some general tips and tricks on what you should prepare for a stargazing date:

Watch the Weather Forecast

Three things you should especially focus on location, timing, and weather conditions.

Always check on the weather report ahead of time to ensure you can observe as many stars and objects as possible. There are various websites and apps offering radar-based and satellite weather forecasts for astronomers.

Nowadays it’s fairly easy to check your weather apps for nights with clear skies, and also, pick the right timing so you can observe the right celestial objects.

Use our guide on stargazing schedule to make the most of your date night.

Find Low-Light Areas

As a general rule of thumb, travel to remote areas with less artificial light and pollution, but make sure your date can still feel safe.

Be transparent and communicate your plans regarding location. If you live in a fairly remote area that is not too cold and with fairly low light pollution, then you can simply find a place in your backyard to sit together.

Plan for the Cold

Blankets are a must. Even during the summer, the very early hours of the mourning when stars are the brightest can be very cold. Also, it’s a great opportunity to connect while cuddling under a warm blanket.

Get a big enough blanket for two, and don’t forget hot drinks like hot chocolate or even mulled wine. Ask her what kinds of snacks she likes and prepare them.

Set the Mood Right

Don’t forget music to help set the mood. Nowadays, you can always use your phone to play music, but don’t forget to prepare your playlist.

Plan Your Stargazing Targets Ahead of Time

Plan the objects/stars you are going to stargaze ahead of time so you can put your attention on your date instead of spending too much time on finding your target observation.

On the other hand, it won’t be a proper stargazing date if you can’t find any notable object to observe.

Sky Map

During a clear night sky, you can see a lot of shiny objects glittering above you. Some are stars, while others are planets. If you want to know which are stars and which are planets, use the Sky Map app to view the night sky. This app transforms your night sky into a detailed map of stars and planets right on your Android devices’ screen.

Utilizing your device’s GPS location and other sensors, the app can display which stars are right above you. If you see a shiny star in the night sky, just open the app and point it in the direction of the star. The app will automatically display the star and its name. You can also view constellations with this app, allowing you to locate the hunter Orion as it sets and the watch the scorpion as it rises.

Aside from stars, you can also view the planets. You’ll be surprised to learn that the shiny object outside your window is not a star. You can also view the location of the moon and the sun with Sky Map. Searching for stars and planets is easy.

5 Best Apps for Astrophotography

Download these top 5 best apps and turn your smartphone into an astrophotography tool! Read more on Smartphone Astrophotography!

A reliable camera and processing software are two essential items in astrophotography , but now your smartphone can be a part of your success. We recommend these best apps for night sky photography to optimize and enhance your experience and skill as an astronomer.

Some are free, some are not, but they’re all worth a look.

Celestron’s SkyPortal - Android & iOS

You may have not heard of this app until now because it is often overshadowed by the apps Sky Map or SkyView for Android and iOS, respectively. Celestron’s SkyPortal app is similarly free, but it is built by astronomers, for astronomers.

SkyPortal also comes with a database of celestial objects and constellations to look for with extensive text and audio details for many of them. While staring up at the star cluster Pleiades, you can get some insight into what it is and the history behind it all for free.

Another bonus from this app is that it's exclusively for aspiring astronomers who already have Celestron telescope products. With this app, you are able to control WiFi compatible Celestron devices and even align your telescope using SkyPortal!

SkySafari - Android & iOS

SkySafari is essentially quite similar to SkyPortal in both interface and functionality. There's a free version available for everyone, and it also has the option to upgrade. Each upgrade expands the object's database and features in the app. Either one of these first two apps are great, but if you’re really looking to ramp up your universal sight-seeing, this is the best astrophotography app for Android.

Another huge aspect of this, similar to SkyPortal, is that it can control WiFi compatible devices from a variety of brands. With SkySafari you are not limited to Celestron products only--no matter how great Celestron is (and they are). This is the app to download for serious astronomers.

Photo Pills - Android & iOS

This is a game-changer in DSLR astrophotography --and photography as a whole. We say DSLR because most features included in this app are designed for customizing your DSLR camera settings. These concepts can be applied to astronomy camerasas well, and modern smartphone cameras with professional customization, but it’s hard to replace a good ‘ole DSLR.

Boasting an exceptional feature list, PhotoPills takes much of the planning and busy-work out of your photoshoots. Planning for Milky Way shots? You’re covered. Need quick calculations for FOV and exposure settings? Done! We at OPT can’t recommend this app any more highly (within reason) than we already do.

PhotoPills does come with a price tag but considering the convenience and scope of functionality, we find it’s worth a lot more.

HD Camera Pro - Android Only

If you don’t have a DSLR, mirrorless, or astronomy camera, and instead use your phone for everything, then this and the next suggestion should be of interest to you.

HD Camero Pro is the best Android camera app that gives heavy customization to your phone’s camera settings. Exposure, ISO, and filters can all be modified as well as its HD videos. If you’re not interested in buying yourself a DSLR, this could be perfect for you.

ProCamera - iOS Only

This is essentially the same thing as the Android version above. ProCamera helps you modify your smartphone camera settings to a more professional level. Also included, is photo editing software to edit images you’ve just taken on-the-go. Again, if you’re not interested in getting yourself a DSLR, these camera apps are the way to go.

With any of these apps ready to go on your smartphone, you’ll be equipped to image the night sky or simply stargaze whenever the weather allows it.

Not sure where to look first? Check this guide out for some easy-to-find beauties in the sky!

Cost Breakdown of Astronomy App like SkySafari

Features Mobile App (Hours) Approx Cost
Working on Mobile Data & GPS Signal 25 $8000
News & Notifications 12 $2000
Light filters 35 $5000
Night vision 35 $5000
Schedule Events Based On Location 25 $4000
Using AR on Real Sky 80 $15,000
Alignment Between AR & Real Objects 40 $5000
Information Exchange from Database to Device 25 $4000
3D Touch Feature 60 $10,000

Time Travel

Light takes the time to travel, and hence, we see the celebs who might be many light-years away from us, as they had been some years in the past. Some of them may not even exist these days, but we are capable of seeing them.
Stargazer is a person who’s an astronomical or astrological enthusiast and loves to take a look at the stars and sky. People who nurture this hobby find themselves actually and figuratively uncovered to a new global and many of the gastronomical delights that it has to offer.

Most of the stargazing apps recreate the sky above you based on the area furnished via the GPS coordinates of your cellphone. These apps provide you special data approximately the celestial bodies which can be above you. Since the apps use your GPS coordinates, the sky displayed for your cell display screen will change when there may be a trade to your region. You can also zoom in for a more distinct view and pick out a particular celestial body to get more details about it. A listing of a number of the excellent stargazing apps for iPhones follows.


This is a NASA advanced app. It presents users with getting the right of entry to a collection of some of the modern-day content NASA has to offer.

Star Chart

This app has been advanced via Escapist Games Ltd. It presents a choice to view the sky from different places as nicely.

GoSkyWatch Planetarium

This app has been developed by way of GoSoftWorks. It presents the best sky view, no matter the orientation of your cellphone.

Star & Planet Finder

This app has been advanced through Planet Finder App. The app will direct you to the star or planet which you need to peer.


This app has been evolved with the aid of Terminal Eleven LLC. It will assist you with the path of the celestial frame of your hobby.

Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy

Craic Design has advanced this app. It presents a big database of celestial objects.

Star Walk HD-5 Stars Astronomy Guide

Vito Technology Inc. Has evolved this app. The app offers information and various daily stats associated with astronomy.


Simulation Curriculum Corp has evolved sky Safari. This app can connect your tool to your electron telescope.

Starmap HD

This app has been developed by using Starmap Media. It is ideal for those who are searching out superior photographs and users revel in.

One of the exceptional stargazing apps for the iPhone four and iPhone five is Star Tracker. All these apps cited above offer significant and instantaneous information of celestial bodies to the users. Armed with them, a cloudy night does no longer come within the manner of a stargazer and his starry sky.

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Best Apps For Tracking The Night Sky

You can easily track celestial objects with one of the many apps available for smartphones. Here’s a rundown of the best ones.

SkyView Lite

This app is so useful and fun to use because you can simply whip out your phone and point it to a spot in the sky.

The app will then inform you of what celestial objects are in that patch of sky. It will help you to identify a variety of objects, such as stars, satellites, and constellations.

This free app also has some other exciting features, such as “Sky Paths,” which enables you to follow the daily sky movements of the moon and sun so you can always be informed of their locations in the sky.

This is perfect for budding astrophotographers! You’ll also enjoy the “Time Travel” feature which shows you the sky on different dates and at different times.

Star Chart

You might know about star charts – these are used by astronomers to find stars in the sky.

They’re useful resources for when you want to “star hop,” which is when you locate the brightest stars in the sky and then use them as a starting point for finding other stars and revealing the patterns of constellations.

Star Chart is a free app that makes use of GPS technology and 3D simulation to calculate the current location of every moon, planet, and star visible from Earth. You’ll be able to track down the celestial body you’re keen to find in no time.

The app also provides you with the full Messier catalogue that contains 110 deep-sky objects and gives you the chance to use finger gestures when pointing to the sky.

One of the best features of this app is that you can even point it at the ground so that you’ll be able to see what the sky looks like on the other side of the world.

Star And Planet Finder

Sometimes you don’t want to point your phone to the sky for an app to tell you what celestial objects are in the spot you’re looking at. Instead, you want to be able to search for specific celestial objects.

For example, if you want to try to find Jupiter’s moons but you’re not sure where to start, you can use this app to help you find them. All you have to do is choose a planet from a list, then this free app will guide you to it.

ISS Detector

If you want to use a free app to help you stay up to date with where the International Space Station is going to be overhead so you can see it with your naked eye, you’ll love this ISS Detector app.

How it works is that you’ll receive notifications a few minutes before the ISS is set to pass over the sky in your location. In addition, the app will monitor the weather conditions so you’ll know if you’ll have good visibility to see it or not.

One of the best things about this app is that you can purchase extensions that give you the chance to schedule the viewing of more satellites, whether famous or amateur radio ones, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and Vanguard 1.

Redshift Sky Pro

This app lets you see what celestial objects are in the night sky but also how the constellations change. You’ll gain a wealth of information about stars and constellations, such as their visibility and position.

Best of all, Redshift Sky Pro can show you what it would be like to land on other planets and view the sky from there, which will take your astronomy to a whole other level. It costs $8.99.


This popular app not only helps you to identify celestial objects such as stars, constellations, and planets, but it has simulations of previous meteor showers and comets that are approaching Earth.

It can also teach you about how to see the constellations, so if you can’t quite seem to see the lion in the Leo constellation, this app will help you with its constellation illustration overlay feature.

You can’t enjoy astronomy without a side helping of mythology facts, and SkySafari has you covered on that front, too! It costs $2.99.

Best Apps

Highest scored apps in the category

Star Walk 2

Learn about what you see in the sky with this handy tool for stargazers.

Star Walk 2 offers astronomical details on the stars, planets, constellations, comets, ISS, and much more. The app offers 3-D imagery, soft music, and a plethora of information that star gazers will enjoy. There is also iMessage support with a quiz to play with friends.

Sky Guide

The augmented reality app for viewing the night sky

When learning about the stars and planets, you need an app that really guides you through the cosmos. With the help of ARKit, that's exactly what this one does.

StarMap 3D+ Plus

Get cosmic details and real-time positioning of the ISS.

StarMap 3D+: Night Sky, Astronomy, Star View Guide uses a compass and a gyroscope for finding stars, satellites, planets, and more. The app includes details for over 100,000 stars, more than 6,000 cosmic objects, and over 80 constellations.

Night Sky

Raise your wrist or your phone and identify what’s in the sky.

Night Sky 4 provides support for Apple Watch and Time Travel with the crown. Learn about the stars, planets, and constellations you see. The app also includes animated 3-D models, gesture controls, and notifications for International Space Station events.

StarMap 3D

Use your iPhone's compass and gyroscope to find planets, constellations, and more with crisp, colorful, high-definition Retina graphics that use every pixel of your iPhone

Use your iPhone's compass and gyroscope to find planets, constellations, and more with crisp, colorful, high-definition Retina graphics that use every pixel of your iPhone! Hold the universe in your pocket!

• Try StarMap 3D Plus for iPad support, more stars, thousands of Deep Sky Objects, and original constellation artwork.

StarMap 3D is the portable star atlas for beginners or.

Star Tracker Lite

Hey, get outdoor with your friends and start star gazing

Hey, get outdoor with your friends and start star gazing! Let StarTracker guide you to explore the universe.

Just hold up and point the device to the sky and have fun! You can see any stars, constellations and deep sky objects you are watching in reality.

What our user said:
"Best star gazing app I've ever used. Very well put together and.


Point your iDevice at the sky to see what stars, planets, and constellations hover above with this fun reference app.

New app: Nightshift - find optimal observing opportunities

To plan my observing sessions, I created an Android app called Nightshift that helps to find optimal stargazing opportunities. I while ago, I published the app in The Netherlands to make it available for other stargazers to use. Now, an improved version 0.10.1 is available world wide in the Play Store.

The app takes darkness (twilight and moonlight), weather data and object altitude into account to calculate and qualify observation opportunities for a given night for your current location. Additionally, the app offers object-specific advice for the moon, all planets and almost 14,000 deepsky objects, visibility calculation, catalogue information and the ability to add opportunities to your calendar or share them with your social network.

The deepsky database contains all confirmed objects from Steinicke's NGC/IC revision, supplemented with a few objects to complete the Messier and Caldwell catalogues. Visibility calculation for several telescopes is based on Torres Lapasió's threshold method (2000) using the visibility model of Andrew Crumey (2014). The weather data are derived from OpenWeatherMap and seem quite reasonable for short-term cloud cover predictions.

The app is still quite basic, although I have some ideas about future features. I'm very interested to know what you think! Suggestions and ideas are welcome and much appreciated.

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