The 8 Best Stargazing Apps of 2021

A night sky app can help you identify the constellations

Nothing beats a quiet night gazing at the stars... Well, nothing except knowing which stars you're gazing at. That's where a stargazing app is useful. These apps can map out exactly which stars and planets you're seeing, but they're not all created equal. These are the best.

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Best for AR Views of the Night Sky: SkyView Lite

Screenshots from SkyView Lite.
What We Like
  • Includes augmented reality to show star trajectories and constellations.

  • Dates can be set to any time including present and past.

  • Works during the day or night.

What We Don't Like
  • Some features hidden behind paywall.

  • Limited functionality.

SkyView Lite is a simple to use app that lets you point your camera at the sky and see which constellations and planets are there (whether you can see them or not). A neat thing you can do is point down to see what stars are showing on the other side of the world (you might even find a satellite here and there).

You'll also find a center circle that you can place over a star or planet to learn its name and see its trajectory. You can also snap and share pictures from right within the app. though it's basic, this is one that will help you quickly identify what you're seeing in the sky tonight or from years in the past.

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Best for a Labeled View of What You're Looking at: Star Tracker Lite

Screenshots from the Star Tracker Lite app.
What We Like
  • Clearly labeled stars, constellations, and deep space bodies.

  • Easily change your location to anywhere in the world.

  • View sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset times.

What We Don't Like
  • Can be a little cluttered.

  • Limited features.

  • Ad supported.

  • Only available on iOS.

If you're looking for a visual display of what you're looking at in the sky, this is the app for it. All you have to do is point your device in whatever direction you want to know about in the sky. Since StarTracker Lite doesn't use your camera, you can point it in any direction or at any object for a clear view of what the sky in that direction contains.

You can also view a list of sunrise and sunset or moonrise and moonset times, of which you can choose to be notified, and you can easily change your location to anywhere in the world to get a view of how the sky might look in another country.

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Best for Choosing How You Want to View: Star Walk 2

Screenshots from Star Walk 2.
What We Like
  • Offers detailed views and information.

  • Nice illustrations when AR camera not in use.

  • Planetary timing and information available.

What We Don't Like
  • AR Camera can be glitchy.

  • Ads can be invasive.

There's more to the sky than stars, and Star Walk 2 Free will help you find it. You can choose from using an AR camera to viewing the sky without the camera and flip through what's Visible Tonight to see the planets that are in the sky. Change your location and even the date and time (down to hours and minutes) to get a clear view of the sky at any time in history.

The only frustration you might encounter is that the AR camera doesn't always show full images, and the occasional ads can be somewhat intrusive. Fortunately, they aren't completely overwhelming.

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Best for Detailed Info About the Sky: Night Sky

Screenshots from Night Sky.
What We Like
  • Can use AR to blend the night sky with the star map overlay.

  • Also has apps available for WatchOS and macOS.

  • Allows you to drill down and learn more about a star, planet, or other finding.

What We Don't Like
  • No Android app available.

  • Not a free app.

  • AR blending is very touchy to movement,

Night Sky is not a free app, but you get many additional features for the nominal monthly fee, like the ability to drill down onto a celestial body and learn more about it. In addition to that, you can use the app on your iPhone or Apple watch, as well as on macOS. View the sky with or without the AR overlay.

The AR overlay is a little touchy, and you need to hold your device really still to get a good view of what you're seeing, but otherwise works nicely. Some users may find less than helpful is the number of stars and other objects the app detects (all the way down to satellites and rocket bodies).

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Best for the Budding Astrologist: Star Gazer+

Screenshots from the StarGazer Plus app.
What We Like
  • Detailed views of star information, satellites, constellations and more.

  • Interface not too cluttered.

  • Free version not full of ads.

What We Don't Like
  • You may find you want more information.

  • Some features hidden behind a paywall.

  • Outlines for constellations can be very faint.

If your interest is in learning about astrology and the things you'll see in the sky, Star Gazer+ will give you a good leg up. This app offers lots of detailed information in addition to what you'd expect to find when you point a stargazing app at the sky. You can even turn on or off the location of satellites in the sky.

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Best for the Astronomy Nerd: SkySafari

Screenshots from the SkySafari App.
What We Like
  • Lots of information and the ability to dig deeper on celestial findings.

  • Detailed lists and explanations of what you can expect to see.

  • Ability to zoom in close to planet or star surface for additional detail.

What We Don't Like
  • Not free for iOS users. Free to download for Android users with in-App purchases.

  • Even after paying for it, the app sometimes open on an advertisement.

  • NO AR option to work with the camera on your device.

If you love the details, then SkySafari is worth the money you'll pay for it. At less than $5, this app gives you tons of information about what you'll see in the sky, including the ability to drill down into articles by clicking on a celestial body.

The only frustrations we encountered were that there's no augmented reality option to work with your camera, and on iOS, you can't try the app before you buy it (even so, it's worth what you pay for it).

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Best for Knowing What's Above on a Given Night: Sky Live: Heavens Above Viewer

Screenshots from the Sky Live Heavens Above app.
What We Like
  • Shows the percentage of likely visibility for your area.

  • Calendar-like functionality.

  • Change locations if you want to see what's visible from another country.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited functionality with lots of features hidden behind a paywall.

  • User interface is simple, but not immediately obvious.

  • Only available for iOS.

Sky Live is a simple app that tells you what you can expect to see in the night sky on a given date. The app opens to the Today view, which gives you a percentage of visibility for whatever is in range to look at, and you can swipe left to see days in the future, but there is no camera function at all. Pointing your device at the sky won't even give you a simulated view of what you see, so you can follow along and learn identification skills.

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Best for Learning About Astral Bodies: Astronomy Now Magazine

Screenshots from the Astronomy Now app.
What We Like
  • Easy to use interface.

  • Beautifully detailed articles.

  • Edition previews.

What We Don't Like
  • Individual edition prices are a little high.

While this isn't technically a stargazing app, anyone who wants to learn more about the stars and other celestial bodies should consider it. The Astronomy Now Magazine is UK-based but contains loads of information for anyone curious. And the app is a pleasure to look at on both iOS and Android devices.

So, you can't track stars with this app, but if stargazing is your interest, you can learn a whole lot about what you're seeing.

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