Last updated: 15 October 2010
[15 October 2010]
SkyGazer from Carina Mobile have been renamed to SkySafari Lite as of the new 2.0 version. The company name has been changed to Southern Stars (http://www.southernstars.com/).
[24 July 2009]
When Carina Software announced their special "Moon Landing 40th Anniversary Sale - Monday, July 20th, 2009!", I decided I would download SkyGazer for free so that I could compare it to SkyVoyager and Star Walk. Thanks to Carina Software for honoring the 1st Moon Landing in this manner!
SkyGazer is a 17.7MB download from the Apple iTunes App Store.
The app comes up in portrait mode. The initial display is a simple but effective star map showing the zenith and the surrounding sky. You move around, rotate, and zoom as you would expect using the touchscreen. A really slick way to zoom in or out is to keep your finger pressed on the lower right or left corner (respectively). There are faint "+" and "-" symbols that will appear on the screen to remind you of this. This makes zooming very smooth and much easier than pinching. I wish other apps would implement a similar zoom feature.
You can select objects and then see information about that object.
It was here that I stumbled across one minor bug. When the app was launched it asks to get your location. I allowed that. Most of the time the display showed "Current Location". However, after selecting an object, viewing its information and the expanded description window, tapping Done would take me back to the star map display but with my location now showing "Austin, TX". I'm really in Arizona. The actual location in the Settings panel was correct.
There is a full onscreen Help system with sections on each portion of the application. There you learn that SkyGazer has 9500 stars and 220 DSOs, as well as planets of our Solar System.
The compass points are only displayed when the horizon line is visible. I wish they were visible when panning around the sky. It would help keep you oriented to your surroundings. There is a display of the Azimuth and Altitude of the center of the display that is briefly visible while panning. But it quickly fades out when you stop panning. Also, the compass points are hard to see as they are green text against a green background. If you change the horizon from opaque to transparent and turn off the natural sky color (or view the star map at a time when the sky is dark), the text is easier to see.
In the Settings panel, you can select the date/time for viewing (or use the current time), location, and many of the display options. I edited my time zone; it correctly showed Standard Time for Arizona but showed -8.0 instead of -7.0 hours. But when I set it to -7.0, the current time was off by an hour. But then I discovered there was a setting to turn off Automatic Daylight Saving. I did that and set the time zone to -7.0. Now the current time was correct. There is a night vision option and you can adjust the screen brightness. You can set the star and DSO magnitude display limits down to +10.0 and +15.0, respectively. I set mine for +7.0 and +15.0 since I live at a dark site. I found the display options very complete.
There is a full search facility. It is not a "live" search but you can enter some text and tap "Search". Or you can view lists of various object types. (Oops, I'm back in Austin again!)
You can easily change the date and time from the Settings window. There are even shortcuts to some specific events. One oddity here; when changing the time, the selection panel is in 24 hour time. But the displayed time is always AM/PM. It would be nice if there was a 24 hour display option, or that at least, the time selection matched the display (for those uncomfortable with a 24 hour clock). Here you can see that I've set the time to 22:25 (which shows as 10:25 PM):
When zooming the display, there is a nice field-of-view value that briefly appears. Here is a not-quite maximum zoom showing the area of M57 in Lyra. You can choose to display DSO names or not; if names are enabled they will appear as you zoom in.
When you relaunch the app, it remembers the last display (position, zoom). When you rotate the iPhone (or iPod touch) to landscape, the display rotates and goes into a full-screen mode, without the buttons and text appearing at the bottom and top.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the capabilities of this $3 iPhone planetarium app. It is a step up from the capabilities of Star Walk at a slightly lower price. The display is, however, more basic than Star Walk's. For the casual user who wants to learn the night sky, both are fine apps. For those who want an app more geared to teaching the night sky, Star Walk would be the better choice. For the more serious amateur astronomer, SkyGazer would be the better choice between these two iPhone apps. However, the serious amateur (or even professional) astronomer will probably want to consider the Carina Software "pro" iPhone app: SkyVoyager. Click for my review of SkyVoyager.
Version 1.2 will be available soon. It will include a compass and altimeter (on the iPhone 3GS). That will be a nice addition to help keep you oriented when using SkyGazer. It will also include a fix for the compass points color problem I mentioned above.
For another perspective on SkyGazer, read the iPod Observer review.
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