Review: Star Chart
If you’re an aspiring astronomer but never get a clear night to see anything, do not fear. You can explore the cosmos in the comfort of your home with your smartphone. Escapist Software has just ported Star Chart to Symbian over from its Android and iOS versions. If you want to view the night sky without getting too technical, this could be the app for you.
Version Reviewed: 1.0
As is standard on mobile astronomy applications these days, Star Chart has an augmented reality mode. As you tilt and rotate your phone, it will show you the view of space from the direction you’re looking. It automatically determines your location from the phone’s GPS receiver, but you can set a manual location.
The Nokia Belle style toolbar at the bottom has an icon of an eye which toggles the augmented reality mode. Turning it off allows you to navigate the sky by swiping across the screen. While it may be easy to lose your bearings in this mode, Star Chart helps by overlaying an equatorial grid, and a coloured hue above the horizon. When the time of day is upon your local sunset, you’ll find a glorious red haze surrounding our local star.
You can also stretch and pinch to zoom in and out. Doing so will reveal objects that were too dim to see before. This is a deceptively simple way of implementing a magnitude (brightness) filter for those who are not perhaps familiar with aspects of astronomy. In real life, the dimmer an object is, the more you have to zoom in to collect enough of its light to detect it.
Zooming into a cluster.
Tapping on an object in the sky will target it and bring up a list of its vital statistics. There is also a button to auto-zoom onto a targeting object. This is good for a quick look-up but you will have to go hunting out specific objects because this version of Star Chart does not have a search function!
Astronomical data on display.
As essential tool for any astronomy companion is a red monochrome mode to preserve your night vision. The crescent moon icon on the toolbar toggles this on and off. Having this enables you to go out observing in the night and use Star Chart as a guide. However, it lacks many other tools that you would need for serious observation.
Night vision mode in action.
Star Chart is currently at version 1.0, which is shown by not even having an option to overlay constellation lines and names. It is currently limited to toggling planet and star names. Neither is there an azimuthal grid option or the ability to set a future date so you can plot where objects will be in the future – e.g. if you were planning the evening’s observations during the day.
Star Chart is available in the Nokia Store for £1.50. What it lacks in comprehensiveness it makes up for in simplicity and could be a great way to get a child interested in astronomy.
I'll be revisiting this should it get seriously updated in the future.
David Gilson, 31st January 2012
Reviewed by David Gilson at