What is the Best iPhone Astronomy App?

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One of the first things I bought from the App Store is a little program called Starmap. I’m an amateur Astronomer, and just love checking things out in the Galaxy. Sometimes when I’m looking at the stars, I don’t know exactly what I’m looking at. That’s where Starmap could come in handy. The best thing about Starmap is that you can take it with you while stargazing, thanks to your iPhone.

Pocket astronomers will find a screen that shows a sky full of planets, visible stars, named stars, galaxies, and nebulae, and coordinates that you can access and search for from an unobtrusive ribbon of icons. Sensitivity to the accelerometer tips the view vertically and horizontally, and you can pinch and pull the screen to get a closer look at the arrangement of the points of light.

It’s a fair and interesting start, if not a bit static, and the land-locked dreamer in me sees many more interactive possibilities as the tools and technology progress–like a real-time night mode that uses the camera as a telescope to automatically fix the star chart around you and a Wikipedia plug-in that spoon-feeds you information about what you’re looking at. You know, the kinds of extras you’d expect from Google Earth.

Indeed, this is a powerful app. The problem is that at times, it’s unresponsive. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just unusable. When it does respond, it responds so slowly, that I can’t even tell if the app is working anymore. That’s inexcusable. For $12.00, I certainly expected more. For an application to behave like this is totally not right. The idea behind Starmap is phenominal, however… it wasn’t programmed very well. When I try to go back to the home page… the iPhone completely locks up.

So there you have it. While the programmers may have had good intentions, they have some work to do for this to be a viable app. Tell me, what other Astronomy app would you recommend for me to try out? If you’ve had a difference experience with Starmap than I did, please let me know.

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