Are you an Android user who's interested in night photography? Having been Android user for several years, I've come to appreciate a few of the apps I've been using to support my night photography and thought I'd share them here. So while this isn't a list of all the apps I use (that list would be huge), these are just my favorites in three areas: Celestial Objects, Weather, and Navigation.
If you're an iPhone user with similar interests, check out my friend David Kingham's article on smartphone apps for night photography.
Sky Safari Plus
Official Description: As just reviewed in Sky & Telescope magazine, the iOS version of SkySafari is "revolutionary" and a "game-changer". Now here for Android, SkySafari will change the way you do astronomy! SkySafari Plus adds a hugely expanded database, wireless telescope control, the ability to fly into orbit around other planets our Solar System, and beyond it to other stars in our Milky Way galaxy, to our basic version...
Mike's Comments: This is my favorite astronomy app for my phone. It has so many features, it really deserves more of my time to learn how to use them all. Regardless, it's an amazing app that gets regular use - a real treat to use out in the field. I got the more expensive version that includes details on satellites and comets but you don't have to. I'll add more by saying that the function this app performs is a very important one in that it helps me to anticipate where the Milky Way and other celestial objects are positioned before I can see them. This ability is what makes the difference between a good astronomy app and a great one so noticeable out in the field.
Cost: $14.99 (less expensive versions are available)
Official Description: You can now have a virtual planetarium in your pocket! Look through the eyes of your Android device* to see a virtual window into the whole visible universe. All you have to do is point your Android device* at the sky and Star Chart will tell you exactly what you are looking at...
Mike's Comments: While not quite as accurate as some others, I found this tool to be very effective and to have a beautiful display. Sure, SkySafari has now taken the top spot as my favorite astronomy app, but this much simpler alternative still gets some use.
Cost: Free (but asks you to pay later for some features)
Official Description: Deluxe Moon is a beautifully crafted application with innovative moon design. The application combines traditional lunar themes with modern technology to bring you the best: style, convenience of the moon in a pocket and a feature rich interface...
Mike's Comments: I've found I use this app so much more than I would have expected. It's a great tool for checking the timing of planned adventures with the moon's cycles and so much more. With the ability to check future dates in-the-field, it's a great way to know if the moon will work with you or against you.
Official Description: Ever wondered what satellites are flying above your head when you look up? This app will show them to you using augmented reality. Point your phone's camera to the sky, and small icons track the locations of various satellites.
Mike's Comments: This is a good dedicated app for identifying satellites overhead. I used to use this app a lot more but find that I now use SkySafari in a lot of cases instead as the plus version provides some of this functionality.
Official Description: Have you seen the International Space Station? It is visible with the naked eye! If you like space or astronomy, you will like this ISS locator app. ISS Detector will tell you when and where to look for the International Space Station or Iridium flares...
Mike's Comments: This great little app for knowing where and when you'll get to see the ISS and Iridium Flares - both very useful to night photographers.
The Photographer's Ephemeris
Official Description: TPE is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, be it day or night, for almost anywhere on earth. Ideal for landscape, nature, travel and outdoor photographers, TPE's map-based approach means you can search for any place name on the planet or position the map pin exactly where you want it.
Mike's Comments: Great for "placing" the moon in a just the right position for a specific shot. Be sure to do your planning with the PC version (free) before using this one out in the field.
Official Description: The application tracks and draws the position of the Polaris (or Octant) in real-time and also displays its hour-angle, the local sideral time, current local time and the longitude of the place. The longitude can be entered manually or obtained using the built-in GPS. The view on the display can be mirrored to match the view in your polar finder scope...
Mike's Comments: A fairly specialized app, I use it to "Polar Align" my iOptron SkyTracker for long-exposure tracking of the stars.
Clear Sky Droid
Official Description: This is the free version of Clear Sky Droid. Please consider the donate version if you find it useful. If not, that's okay too. This version is exactly the same as the donate version. Clear Sky Droid interacts with cleardarksky.com to provide clear sky charts that describe astronomical viewing conditions. Find closest, search by name / location, favorites, and map. North America only...
Mike's Comments: This has been a long-time favorite of mine that provides location selected weather data - from an astronomer's perspective. The data takes a little time to learn how to interpret and using it requires a data connection, but the information has been very helpful - especially when it's available from a few surrounding areas.
Official Description: stronomy weather forecast. Forecast data is from 7Timer and includes: Cloud cover, Seeing, Transparency, Humidity, Wind, Temperature, Lunar Phase, Lunar Altitude, ISS Passes (automatically localised), Support for GPS-only devices, Support for devices with no location services (manual long/lat entry), and NEW overview graphic. This lightweight astronomy app detects your location and uses it to instantly give you a forecast that is highly localized and works worldwide...
Mike's Comments: A very useful app that's similar to Clear Sky Android in that it provides weather data from an astronomer's perspective. It does not allow you to select different locations (as Clear Sky Android does) but it is easier to use and more functional.
Official Description: Download WeatherBug to access the world’s largest network of real-time weather sensors for forecasts, alerts and more. Get the industry’s most accurate pinpoint forecasts for your neighborhood and around the world. Benefit from the fastest, most advanced early warning system, powered by the largest nationwide weather and lightning network...
Mike's Comments: This is one of my favorite traditional weather apps and I've been using it for years.
Official Description: The Internet's first ever weather site, Weather Underground has built a reputation for providing the most reliable and in-depth weather data for locations across the world. With our unique network of 22,000+ neighborhood weather stations our app provides the most localized weather information available...
Mike's Comments: This is another traditional weather forecasting app with some great localized functionality. It's becoming another one of my favorites I often go to in the field.
Backpacker GPS Trails Pro
Official Description: Record hiking trails, backpacking trips, and camping adventures with Backpacker GPS Trails Pro. View maps, navigate with GPS and digital compass, take photos, and backtrack to the trailhead...
Mike's Comments: This has been my favorite backcountry navigation app for years. And while it has been a little buggy, its offline maps have helped keep me out of trouble in many of my night adventures.
Gaia GPS: Topo Maps and Trails
Official Description: Totally rewritten in all respects, we present Gaia GPS 5.0 for Android. For the last 6 months, the core Gaia developers have endeavored to bring the same critically-acclaimed mapping experience we offer on iOS to Android...
Mike's Comments: I'm getting more familiar with this app that was recent released for Android users and I have to say that I'm very impressed. It may well become my new favorite backcountry navigation app. I'll keep testing.
Official Description: Explore new places, discover local favorites, and navigate your world with Google Maps. Available on Android phones and tablets with a simple, easy-to-use design...
Mike's Comments: I've been a little frustrated with Google's attempt to upgrade in a way that deprecates critical functionality. So until Google completes their upgrades in a way that allows access to My Places, I continue using the original version that my phone came with and I disable further updates. I've looked at some alternatives but keep coming back to Google Maps as my favorite navigation tool for locations I can drive to. And with Google's heavy investment in the app (both on the phone and on the web), I expect this solution to be tough for others to beat - in the long-term.
PeakFinder - USA West
Official Description: The mountains are calling! Explore more mountains than any mountaineer! PeakFinder makes it possible... and shows the names of all mountains and peaks with a 360° Panorama display...
Mike's Comments: This app doesn't help me if I'm lost but it's great to be able to identify named peaks when I'm up in the mountains. It makes it more fun when I'm there and it makes it easier to remember what peaks are in my pictures when I get home later on. It works well off-line so it's especially useful in the backcountry.