If you’re one of those Android users who’s into stars, constellations and astronomy, and you would like to know a little more about what you see at night, then you may want to check out Google Sky Map for your device. This relatively user-friendly app uses your location services in order to give you a map of the sky right where you’re standing or sitting. You can point your phone towards the stars and instantly learn more about what’s going on above you – a fun and educational tool that is great for kids and curious adults alike.
What Does It Do?
If you’ve used Google Earth then Sky Map will look a little familiar. Like Google Earth, Sky Map uses layers. When you tap the screen, you’ll bring up the layers, as well as other on-screen controls. A menu to the left displays the layers for stars, constellations, Messier objects, planets, grid lines, and the horizon line. You can use any or all of them, or turn off whichever ones you don’t want to see. There are also zoom controls and an option to switch between automatic and manual navigation modes. Auto navigation (the app's default mode) works with your phone's sensors to show you a map of the sky based on the angle and direction at which you're holding your phone. In manual mode, you scroll through the map of the sky from your location using your finger on the touch screen.
Why Would I Use It?
You typically use Sky Map to answer two types of questions: ‘What's that over there?’ And, ‘Where is <enter name of celestial object you may have heard of>’?
When you're trying to identify a bright spot or constellation then you can just point your device at the object in the sky to view a map of that section. The map on your phone should (I repeat, should) line up with what you see in the sky; any object in view in real life should also be visible on your screen, labeled for you.
Does It Work?
Yes and no. Aiming isn’t a perfect science and definitely takes some getting used to. Younger users (or adults with as little patience as mine) may become frustrated easily with this and be quick to declare the app useless. However if you hang in there and get used to the controls and figure out how to calibrate the app then it’s likely you’ll find that it is useful to satisfy that curiosity or impress those around you with your newfound celestial knowledge.
This app is okay. Personally, I think it’s a neat tool to show my kids what they’re looking at when they look up at the stars, but overall I lack the patience required to really use the app to its full potential. If you’re willing to play around with it and you’re seriously interested in the night sky then you might have good luck with this as an addition to your app library.
Download Google Sky Map for Android from the Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.stardroid&hl=en