Sky Safari 3.0 Pro

When the iPad came out, the first thing I thought of was “How cool would it be to use this device for sky charts?”  There were some nice ones available, but I wanted something with more detail that I could use at the eyepiece.  At the January CAS meeting, one of our members did a presentation on star hopping with an iPad using an app called Sky Safari.  I was so impressed with it, I decided to get it for my iPad.

I had some gift cards to spend from Christmas so I got the Pro version.  After the gift cards, it cost me about $5.00!  (as of this writing, they have it on sale for $39.99 on the App Store).  I played with it and I was amazed at everything that is included in this application.  It had all the stars from the Hubble Guide Star catalog.  I would zoom in to various areas of the sky and it was showing galaxies down to 18th magnitude.  I set it up to be in “equatorial” mode because I wanted it for portable sky charts, not a planetarium.  When you zoomed in to some objects, it would show you a picture of that object which is really nice.  You can make impromptu observing lists too.

On the day I downloaded the app, the club was having an impromptu observing night down at the Hocking Hills so brought the iPad with me.  I did not have time to come up with an observing list, but that was ok.  I was experimenting.  After getting set up, I started using it to look for my first object.

One of the things that is annoying with any type of back-lit display is that gives off white light.  Even when you have it in “red light” mode, the backlight is still white.  I dimmed it as far as I could go and put it in red light mode.  It worked ok for me.  I think I will use some Rubylith in the future to truly dim it down.  (In fact, the author of Sky Safari describes a great way to do this).

So I decided to go to M77.  Using the star charts, I easily found it.  I selected the “Info” button about it.  I read through the information and discovered something new (to me that is).  Did you know that M77 is a Seyfert galaxy?  How cool is this?  Here I am, looking at an object, and then I learn something more about it.  Using the star charts, I went to more galaxies surrounding the area.  Each one letting me know things like how far away it is, the magnitude, etc.  I opened the showcase object list that the app creates for you based on the current time. On that list was Hubble’s Variable Nebula.  I read the description of it.  I discovered that it was the first object photographed with the 200-inch Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar.  Very neat.

I eventually want to get some Optical Encoders for my scope so that I can interface the telescope to the iPad to give me a truly interactive experience.

I plan to use the iPad every time I observe.  It adds a nice new dimension to my observing.  And I plan to leave the bulky books and charts at home.

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~ by jhissong on 2012/02/02.

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