Astronomy is a fun and challenging hobby. Learning about the night sky puts us in touch with the motions of the universe. Time, seasons, and more are all associated with the night sky and learning about our planet’s position in the solar system and universe will help you and your children to understand how the great explorers could navigate the world centuries ago.
Getting started with astronomy used to be difficult. You’d have to get your hands on star charts or at least a Farmer’s Almanac to familiarize yourself with the night sky. Now, there are tools available in the palm of your hand that can help you learn about our vast universe.
Here are some Android apps (and their iOS counterparts) that will get you started on your journey through the night sky:
1. Sky Map (formerly Google Sky) – This “point and shoot” app will tell you which heavenly body you’re viewing. It’s great for identifying objects quickly. Cost: FREE! Unfortunately, Sky Map is not available on iOS but you can get Star Walk™ for $2.99.
2. Stellarium – Stellarium Mobile is a fully-featured planetarium for your phone. It shows a realistic night sky map in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. Cost: $2.58. Stellarium is no longer available for iOS try SkySafari 3 instead ($2.99).
3. Astronomy Picture of the Day [APOD] – NASA releases some very interesting pictures of our cosmos every day. You can have them delivered directly to your phone with this great app. Cost: FREE! Also available on iOS.
4. Moon Phase Pro – In order to get the best view of deep sky object you need dark skies. Moon Phase Pro will help plan the best times for deep sky viewing. Cost: 99 cents. Moon Phase Pro is not available on iOS but check out MoonPhase – moon info as an alternative ($1.99).
Besides these apps you’ll probably want a telescope too (though I suggest starting with binoculars). They can be pretty pricey but if you’re looking for an opportunity to win one, sign up for Homeschool Astronomy‘s mailing list. Not only will you get great information but you’ll be entered to win a Celestron telescope. I’ve review products from Homeschool Astronomy before and even interviewed Tony Ceraso at a homeschool convention. He’s a great guy and here are 3 reasons he has for signing up for his mailing list:
If 400 people sign up and mention my podcast, The Wired Homeschool, then Tony will do a special drawing just for my readers (and listeners). If he doesn’t receive 400 sign ups everyone who signs up will be entered into a larger pool of subscribers for an opportunity to win the telescope. Make sure to let Tony know The Wired Homeschool sent you when you sign up!