Immerse Yourself In Space With Sky Guide

Growing attached to apps and services is something we have all done as iOS users — with Sparrow being a particular sore point. Difficulties can arise when developers attempt to improve upon their previous efforts in the name of innovation and improvement; however, as with Skitch, such plans aren’t so easily fulfilled. Therefore, upon hearing my favourite app of 2012 was being redeveloped, I listened with more than a little trepidation. As it turns out the team have released a brand new app filled with mind blowing audio and visuals, once again blowing my mind.

Again based upon Nick Risinger’s stunning cosmological photography, Sky Guide is the new iteration of Sky Survey — the most beautiful app in the App Store, until now. Like Apple, Risinger knows even the best products can be improved and with Sky Guide his team have brought a wealth of new material to give any astronomy enthusiast goosebumps. The idea may remain the same but there’s plenty of features to get excited about whilst scanning the Milky Way. Let’s take a look.

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Natural Beauty

The unblemished night sky is one of the finest sights known to man, the trouble is such a sight is becoming increasingly more difficult to witness. For the uninitiated, Nick Risinger’s 5,000 megapixel mosaic is made up of 37,000 photographs captured from some of the most remote locations on Earth and shows an incomprehensible array of celestial sights in unadulterated clarity. This extraordinary image forms the very fabric of Sky Guide and allows for an experience rarely had in the flesh.

The stunning panorama of the Milky Way

The stunning panorama of the Milky Way.

Competing apps like Night Sky show a computer render of the Milky Way with thousands of banal, indistinguishable dots miserably representing the beautiful spiral galaxy’s components. Sky Guide incorporates the built-in gyroscope to accurately mirror the sky above with real images thus enabling instant recognition of every planet and constellation on show. No data connection is required to traverse the skies and it is even possible to enter raw coordinates to mimic a specific area from anywhere in the world.

The panorama can be dimmed to match the sky above your head

The panorama can be dimmed to match the sky above your head.

The core image behind Sky Guide is incredibly detailed and, due to its enormous size, is not shown at full resolution. Such intricacy shows thousands of real stars, some impossible to see in even moderately light pollution free areas; therefore, with a two-finger scroll gesture the panorama can be dimmed in order to match the sky above, enabling easier identification of the visible stars. That’s not where the beauty ends with this app, however.

Information, Beautified

Sky Guide, although perfectly capable of being a browsing app, is innately educational with complete disregard for degree of knowledge. Whereas its predecessor relied upon Wikipedia for content, this time multiple academic sources have been utilised to provide higher quality content. Much of the information has been handcrafted by a number of highly respected individuals giving an unparalleled level of expertise in this app category and a vast amount of educational resource.

Detailed information can be accessed by selecting specific objects with external links below.

Detailed information can be accessed by selecting specific objects with external links below.

To access a particular object’s information simply tap on the panorama to uncover the necessary icon from where a slide out panel appears. Within this panel is a set of concise, yet informative paragraphs with accompanying links set beneath beautiful imagery of the selected object. The interface itself is marvellous and allows focus to remain on the rich content featured with the sans-serif font set against deep black panels being a beautifully minimalist touch. After all, it is simplicity that makes for a great UI and this app has it in abundance.

Customise what you can see in the panorama.

Customise what you can see in the panorama.

The interface is exemplary throughout with a slimmed down menu and simplistic sharing options that allow selected areas of the panorama to be showcased on Twitter and Facebook. The main menu — accessible from the ubiquitous hamburger button—lists options for customising the panorama; however, compared to Sky Survey, the detail options are very few and far between. That said, Sky Guide is light years ahead of the former app in terms of general speed, fluidity, and beauty making the trade-off more than worthwhile.

Serene Utility

One major addition to this title is the presence of music. A collaboration with Mat Jarvis of Osmos HD fame has yielded a melodic soundtrack oozing with ethereal, dulcet tones. As with Osmos, I highly recommend using Sky Guide with a set of headphones to become fully immersed in the app; an experience I promise is like no other on iOS. Amazingly, it’s even possible to play the stars as each recognised star has a related note that sounds when tapped. Larger, hotter stars emit a deeper sound compared to the higher pitched qualities of their smaller counterparts. The integration of the special sounds and the overlying track is intriguingly brilliant with each extra sound seeming to fit perfectly every time.

Wear headphones to listen to the stars themselves. Strangely, the largest of them all doesn't have a sound.

Wear headphones to listen to the stars themselves. Strangely, the largest of them all doesn’t have a sound.

Searching for specific objects is possible from the magnifying glass icon quietly displayed to the top right and allows for a manual search or object-specific browsing. Every app has small, seemingly irrelevant features that can help bring the entire project together of which Sky Guide has several; however, one in particular stands out. With each search result a time is given in which the constellation, galaxy, planet, or star is due to rise then set. This not only means you know what to look for but also when to look upwards, such a feature exemplifies the thought that has been given throughout the app making it a real pleasure to use.

Insert specific coordinates and see when your favourite constellation is due to rise.

Insert specific coordinates and see when your favourite constellation is due to rise.

An App For Every Space Enthusiast

I love everything about this app if you couldn’t tell already, right down to the icon itself. Let’s face it, an icon has to be picturesque to warrant a spot on any homescreen and Sky Guide’s may be one of the best. However, that’s enough of the minutiae, the simple fact is this app is fantastic and a marked improvement upon its near-perfect predecessor. Given the nature of the apps, owners of Sky Survey already have the predominant feature of Sky Guide; however, personally, between the far superior information bank and gorgeous soundtrack, I believe there is more than enough here to warrant taking a look.

Sky Guide is just 0.99¢ for a limited time only.


Summary

A window to the Milky Way most will never get to see with their own eyes. Featuring a stellar soundtrack and astoundingly detailed real images, Sky Guide is the best reference app for astronomers on the App Store today.

10
  • Jeff G

    Just downloaded it. Wow, you weren’t joking. Coolest app I’ve downloaded in a long time. Pretty sure they ought to charge more but hell, I’m fine with that!

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