With new technology, we can push astrophotography to the next level. Nowadays, astrophotography isn’t all about having the right camera and the right telescope.
As well as having the right software on your mac, you’ll also want to consider downloading some apps to help you in your quest for the optimal photo. Different apps provide different benefits, so it’s worth searching through the app store to see what’s available. They’re regularly updated, and although I’ll try to update this list as often as I can, there’s new apps being developed every day!
Before we begin, you’re probably going to need a few different kinds of apps. Firstly, one that can actually have an effect on your photos if you’re partaking in iPhone astrophotography. Secondly, you’ll need something that can tell you about the sky in your area and whether the weather is suitable for astrophotography. Finally, I’ve added a few other apps – just for fun!
So, let’s have a look at some of the best astrophotography apps for your phone that you can download today and get started with.
The first app that we need is something that’s going to have a direct effect on the photos that we take. The best app that I’ve used for this is NightCap. Though I do have a friend who raves about Camera FV-5, I’ve never used it myself (it’s worth checking it out if you’re Android).
iPhones use near to maximum aperture anyway, which is exactly what we want when we’re taking pictures of the night sky. Night Cap gives us the opportunity to play around with the ISO and the shutter speed of our camera, which you can’t do with your regular iPhone. This enables us to edit the pictures according to our specifications, and make them look a lot more vibrant.
- Special Star Trail mode for creating star trail images, as well as meteor and aurora mode too
- Closest to camera quality you’re going to get on a phone
- Perfect for taking pictures in low light situations (like Astro!)
If you’re not sure if Astrophotography is right for you, then getting started by using an iPhone is probably your best bet. This can help you to learn whether you really enjoy it or it’s just a passing fad. NightCap is the first app that you should download if you’re looking at testing out what it’s like to take pictures of the night sky.
Ideal for: Absolute Beginners
Scope Nights is one of the older apps around, but it’s still undoubtedly one of the most popular. One of the reasons that people like Scope Nights so much is because of the ease of use it allows – even a complete novice will be able to navigate through the Scope Nights menus.
Scope Nights has been recommended by a ton of big astronomy magazines over the past 5 years, and it uses Met Office Data to provide regular weather updates throughout the day. If you want an app that you can easily look at and say “yep, that’s the best time to go..”, then Scope Nights is the first app you’ll want to download.
Scope Nights Features
- Plan up to ten days in advance with a n accurate weather forecast.
- Easily integrate Scope Nights with your Twitter account, so you can share your images with your followers or groups.
- Use NASA’s light pollution map to detect where the best places are in your area to go stargazing.
The real benefits of using Scope Nights comes in the customizability that it offers. Say for example you only want to go out stargazing in the evenings.. well, you can set your app up to only notify you and track evening weather coverage. You can easily create your own detailed forecasts designed to meet your own specifications, which isn’t possible with many other apps.
Overall, Scope Nights is one of the first apps that you should have on your list if you’re looking for the best astronomy apps.
Sky Map Dark Sky Finder
I’d better include an alternative for all those people out there who aren’t using the apple Store. Sky Map is probably the best alternative to Scope Nights if you’re not using an iPhone. EDIT: I’ve recently been told that Sky Map is becoming a little bit glitchy, which sort of sucks for Android users.
One of the best Alternatives to Sky Map is Dark Sky Finder, which has only recently come to the Android. Like Scope Nights, it tries to provide a multitude of different things, and does so successfully. The main objective of Dark Sky Finder is to, well.. y’know.
Star Walk 2
If you’re looking at getting yourself into astrophotography but aren’t ready to take the leap into purchasing expensive equipment, there’s no reason why you can’t use your phone for astrophotography. In fact for many beginners, using their phone initially will be a good way to gauge their interest in the topic. One of the best apps to download if you’re interested in smartphone astrophotography is Star Walk.
There are a ton of variations of Star Walk, so you might want to have a look and see which one of them suits your needs best. But essentially, Star Walk is an augmented reality app that allows you to target areas in the sky and visualise the star formations.
Star Walk is especially good for kids, so if you’re wanting to get your kids interested in astronomy at an early age then it could be worth considering. It’s interactive, and it’s likely to help keep their focus. Of course, Sky Walk is fun for adults to use too!
What I like most about Star Walk is that it provides a good amount of information about each of the objects that you’ll target in the sky. So if you’re targeting one specific celestial body, then Star Walk will pop up with some information about it – pretty cool.
Star Walk Features
- Augmented reality view of the sky
- Pop ups with short synopsis over visible objects
- Astronomical calendar which details different events through the year
As you might expect, Star Walk is pretty useless if you’re in an area with high light pollution e.g. the city. But if you get the chance to get out to the countryside, then Star Walk can be a super fun app to use.
As you can probably see from the apps that I’ve listed, I enjoy fun and interactive apps. None of them more so that Luminos, the space simulation app.
Although Luminos might appear to be a little overwhelming when you first download it, you’ll soon get used to using it. It actually has a series of tutorials in the menu, and unlike most apps, they’re really in depth. This means that even if you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking at, you can use their tutorials to give yourself an in depth lesson.
This is a pretty awesome app, both from a fun perspective but also as a serious astronomy app too. Sure, you can have fun looking at all the ancient constellations and recreating eclipses, but you can also track meteor showers and use it as a star guide too.
- Interactive star guide
- Fun satellite observation
- Live sky charts and satellite alerts
Overall, Luminos is one of the most fun astrophotography relevant apps that you can use. It’s a great mix between fun and actual usability.
Overall, these are just some of the astrophotography apps that are out there – there’s seriously a ton of different apps out there for you to choose from. So, take your time and go through the different apps to try and find which one suits you most. If you’re on a budget, then don’t bother paying for an app; most of the time, there is usually a free equivalent out there that you can find.
Apps aren’t meant to be the be all and end all of astrophotography. You shouldn’t rely on them for your experience, but they can definitely enhance it if you use them wisely. For me, sometimes part of the fun of astrophotography is getting away from super advanced technology, taking my cheap Dob telescope out and having some fun. But if you want to make sure you’re getting optimal skies, then using apps is the way to go.