iPhone and iPad Apps for Amateur Astronomers

Do you have very strong opinions about the planetary status of Pluto? Do you hush everyone in your car and turn up the radio when Neil Degrasse Tyson comes on the air? We get it: you’re into astronomy in a big way. Even if you already have your own telescope and a year-round pass to the local observatory, you might be surprised to learn of the wealth of astronomy apps available in the App Store.

Here are some of the best astronomy apps for iPhone and iPad owners.

Star Walk – 5 Stars Astronomy Guide

Star Walk is an app so cool, it’s a great argument for what makes the iPhone such a great gadget. You might even recognize it from some of the Apple television ads. Here’s what it does: point your iPhone’s camera at the night sky, and Star Walk will tell you what constellations or astronomical bodies you’re looking at, and it will also helpfully highlight them on your screen. This app has more tricks up its sleeve, such as a handy night viewing mode, so be sure to give it a thorough test drive when you download it. Read our full review of Star Walk for iPad.

Redshift – Astronomy

While Star Walk makes an excellent companion for when you’re out in a place with a starry view, Redshift – Astronomy is great to play around with when you’re stuck indoors somewhere. Redshift can be best described as a “mobile planetarium.” The app features fully 3D rendered views of every nook and cranny of the galaxy, with crisp retina-display graphics. Redshift also pulls data from Wikipedia, rounding out the educational experience.

APODViewer – view NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

Every day NASA posts its “Astronomy Picture of the Day,” or APOD for short. More than just a picture, these posts often include animations and movies, and always contain a description written by a professional astronomer. APODViewer for iPhone is just about the best way to get your daily dose of APOD. Star geeks will be thrilled to learn that this app can save APOD pictures to the iPhone photo album, save posts for offline viewing, and serve up random entries on demand.

Distant Suns: The new way to look at the sky

Although aimed at casual astronomers, Distant Suns has an extensive pedigree in astronomy. Point your camera at an object and Distant Suns 2 will tell you what you’re looking at. The app includes more than 130,000 stars making up 88 constellations, the Messier catalog of galaxies, nebula and star clusters and dozens of photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. Distant Suns is also one of the few astronomy apps to offer a lite version so you can try before you buy. Read our review of Distant Suns 2 for iPhone.

MoonPhase – moon info

MoonPhase is the only source you’ll ever need for everything moon related. Whether you want to know moon rise/set times, the time of the next eclipse, the names of full moons and zodiac positions, and, obviously, the phase of the moon, MoonPhase has you covered. The app is pretty well designed and thorough, so if you’re a “lunartic,” be sure to check it out.


How obsessed with NASA are you? If you just shouted “Very,” then first of all you should know that this website cannot hear you. Second, you’ll be thrilled to learn that NASA has a free way for fans and well-wishers to stay up to date on all their missions. NASA App contains thorough mission info, but also a live stream of the NASA TV channel, launch countdown clocks, the NASA Twitter feed, and even opportunities to see NASA craft reentry, wherever you live.

Pocket Universe

Pocket Universe is thankfully uncomplicated and friendly enough for novice star gazers. The “show me” feature supplies you with directional arrows to help you find constellations based on the time and your current location. The app gives users access to astronomy news and information from various web sites and also features a constellation quiz to test your knowledge of the night sky. Read the complete review of Pocket Universe.


The aptly named Hubble is an iPhone App that features every Hubble Telescope News Release, and all supporting materials, up through 2009. It’s a great way to catch up with all the important discoveries and amazing photographs associated with Hubble. Some of the fun topics covered include dark matter, supernovas, and the possibility of life on other planets. If you’d like to skip the press releases and head right to the jaw dropping images and videos, Hubble can do that, too.


With planets displayed in beautiful 3D, Planetarium lets users fly across the solar system or pause to watch the rotational orbit of the planets. Apps like Planetarium that are purely visual can be difficult to explain, but basically, it’s an interactive solar system where you can create various views of the planets then fast forward or rewind to see the planets in motion. Read the complete review of Planetarium.

Did we forget your favorite astronomy app? Are you nostalgic for the good old days when Pluto was a planet? Let us know in the comments.