Google Sky Map for Sailors

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:49AM - Comments: (0)

April 5, 2010

My brother-in-law showed up for an Easter weekend reunion with his new Android phone and a cool little app that I wish I had when we were cruising the Pacific: Google Sky Map. I’m not sure whether a similar product is available for the iPhone, but I imagine it is. Practical Sailor recently profiled a number of navigation apps for the iPhone in our April 2010 issue.

The video pretty much explains it all. Point the phone at a celestial object, and the display shows you a map of the constellations and identifies the object and others nearby. The app uses the device’s built-in compass, GPS, and clock to display an annotated Sky Map of the area it is facing. You can zoom in tight on your chosen celestial body, or use the “finder” function to look for a particular celestial body. If you point the phone at the ground, it will “see” through the earth to identify those objects that are beneath the horizon and not visible in the night sky. We tested the app on land, but it should work fine at sea, even where there is no cellular phone coverage.

Aside from offering a fun toy for amateur astronomers, the Sky Map app is a potent tool for the novice celestial navigator, helping them become familiar with the most common stars used for celestial work. Based on my limited time with Sky Map, it’s a happy marriage between old and new technology . . . made in heaven.

Now, for an app that helps us find the remaining Easter eggs before they rot . . .

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