Sky Guide Review
John Byers, March 12, 2018
I've always disliked constellations. When kids learn about constellations there is always a picture of a bear overlayed on some stars in the night sky. The problem is, the bear drawing will be very intricate, and yet the actual constellation consists of like 10 stars. You could literally overlay any image, connect a few stars in the background, and say it's a crawfish fighting a giraffe. So I was skeptical when I downloaded Sky Guide on the iPhone. This is my review.
Sky Guide is an iPhone app by Fifth Star Labs. It calls itself "stargazing fun for all ages and experience levels". That is accurate, my experience level is zero, and the app is very cool! I still don't care about constellations, but it has other stuff including: Stars (actual names, not just constellations), planet locations, comets, and best of all, satellites.
It sounds like it would be complicated. There are a lot of things in the sky, how could the app possibly work? All you do is open the app, and hold it up to the sky, and everything in the sky will be on the screen. If you see a star you want to know about, hold your phone up to it, and touch the star on the screen, and it will tell you everything about the star. If you want to find a planet, pick the planet from the list, and it will show you where in the sky to look. So next time you are wondering where Jupiter is, you can easily find it. The app works in the daylight too, and will show you exactly where in the sky Jupiter is!
The best part of the app in my opinion is tracking satellites. I didn't realize it before using Sky Guide, but there are many satellites visible at night. Living in the city, you won't be able to see many of them, but even with all of Salt Lake's light pollution, I can almost always see the International Space Station when it passes. It is really cool watching it slowly cross the sky. On dark nights, I've been able to see Tiangong-1, China's recent space station too, very faintly. The list of satellites is huge. You can have Sky Guide alert you before your favorite satellite comes up on the horizon too, if you don't want to miss one.
Other cool features
- Tons of great info about every star, planet, satellite, and constellation
- Swiping up or down with two fingers changes the star brightness, so you can match the sky around you
- Ability to turn constellations, mythology, labels, and satellites on and off
- Night vision mode, so that the iPhone's text won't be too bright as you look for stars
- Search Feature
- Meteor Shower peaks
Short Astronomy Lesson
When using Sky Guide, you can see the "Magnitude" of any object in the sky, whether it is a star, planet, satellite, whatever. Magnitude is a measure of brightness, but for some reason, the lower the magnitude, the brighter. If you are choosing a satellite to look for, try picking one with a negative magnitude, as it will be much easier to see. When I first got Sky Guide, I kept looking for satellites with high magnitudes, thinking they would be bright and easy to spot. I wish I would have known to look for negative numbers.
If you have any interest in space, planets, astronomy, or satellites, I highly recommend Sky Guide. It is a cool app, and easy to use so you can focus on seeing stuff in the sky, not fiddling with the app.