Last updated: 15 October 2010
[15 October 2010]
SkyVoyager from Carina Mobile have been renamed to SkySafari as of the new 2.0 version. The company name has been changed to Southern Stars (http://www.southernstars.com/).
[24 July 2009]
I had planned to get this iPhone planetarium app (since I'm a big fan of Voyager on Mac OS X) but with all the recent move activities, I hadn't gotten around to it. However, I could not pass up the Carina Software special "Moon Landing 40th Anniversary Sale - Monday, July 20th, 2009!" when the price was $0.00. Yes, it was free! Thanks to Carina Software for honoring the 1st Moon Landing in this manner!
SkyVoyager is a 39.5MB download from the Apple iTunes App Store.
The operation of SkyVoyager is very similar to SkyGazer, but with many more options and a much larger object database (300,000+ stars and 14,000+ DSOs!). And like the desktop versions of Voyager, the object database can be updated via the Internet. It was obvious that the code base for both apps are the same (which is a good thing). Here is a comparison of SkyVoyager and SkyGazer from the Carina web site:
• 17 MB download, price $2.99 (USD)
• 40 MB download, price $14.99 (USD)
In this review I will make several references to my SkyGazer review. Since there is some overlap in the two apps, I suggest you read that review before continuing on with this review.
The two concerns I mentioned in my SkyGazer review (showing "Austin, TX" as my location and the near invisibility of the compass points against the green horizon area) are also present in SkyVoyager v1.1. I had two new (minor) problems in SkyVoyager. I found it very tricky to precisely select a magnitude limit for stars and DSOs using the slider. I would stop at +7.0 and it would jump to a different value. And when I relaunched the app, the magnitude limits would be changed, getting an extra 0.5, as shown on the Settings screens for both stars and DSOs. However, I later discovered that the magnitude "limit" setting is actually variable, depending on the display zoom level. That makes sense, although it was not obvious what level is used when setting the value. The other problem was that with the MUCH larger object database, selecting to display very faint stars and DSOs caused the display to be very slow to respond to panning on my original iPhone. I suspect the app would be more responsive with the iPhone 3GS. I changed the magnitude display limits slightly to reduce the app workload and it became more responsive during pans.
If you use the Voyager desktop application, you will discover that many of the settings and various options are very similar in SkyVoyager. There is even a telescope control mode. Right now that is essentially a demo mode, but once the Carina Software SkyFi Wi-Fi adapter becomes available later this year, you will be able to control a GOTO telescope using the iPhone (or iPod touch). A video demo of SkyFi is available on YouTube. You can control a telescope today from SkyVoyager but you have to pair SkyVoyager to the desktop Voyager, which controls the telescope via a wired connection. Since my telescopes are still packed from my recent move, I haven't been able to test that yet.
When you first launch the app, you get asked if the app can use your current location. Once the star chart appears, it comes up in portrait mode and it looks like this:
I turned on the "natural sky" look and set a fainter magnitude limit. Since it was daytime, the chart looked like this:
I think that looks somewhat washed out so I turned the "natural sky" look off. The chart then looked like this:
I enabled the photo-realistic look for the Milky Way, turned on the basic constellation lines, and set the time for darkness. Now the chart looked like this:
If you rotate the phone (or iPod touch) to landscape, the chart will rotate and fill the entire display:
Search is the same as with SkyGazer, just with more selections. Zooming is also the same as SkyGazer. However, you can zoom in further and see more details in the smaller field-of-view. I did find myself wishing for a zoom back out shortcut. For example, after I zoomed into Jupiter to see its moons, I wanted to zoom back out to a "default" sky map view. But there isn't a default and there is no obvious way (other than holding down on the "zoom out" screen location) to get back to a wide field view. Here you can see the area of M57 in Lyra (not even close to be fully zoomed in), which also shows the field-of-view value that appears when zooming, and two views of Jupiter and its Galilean moons.
This short review has only mentioned a few of the extensive capabilities of SkyVoyager. I'll report back on it as I use it more in real-world scenarios at "Oracle Observatory". But for now, I can say that the capabilities and large database in SkyVoyager make it an ideal "portable" planetarium app (or "sky simulator") for the serious amateur or professional astronomer. Depending on your experience/knowledge level and your personal desires for a sky simulator, you may be able to get by with one or more other iPhone OS apps, including SkyGazer or Star Walk (both reviewed here). If you want a top-of-the-class app that provides near desktop computer capabilities, SkyVoyager is that app. Whether or not you use the desktop (Mac or Windows) Voyager application, SkyVoyager is definitely worth adding to your iPhone or iPod touch.
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