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Posted: 11 June 2011

photo SkySafari 3 Plus
Southern Stars

Southern Stars provided me with a "redeem code" for "SkySafari 3 Plus" (iTunes App Store link), one of three new versions of SkySafari, previously reviewed as "SkyVoyager". There are two other versions, reviewed here: "SkySafari 3" and "SkySafari 3 Pro". All three versions are "universal" apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. I used SkySafari 3 Plus on my iPhone 4.

As described by Southern Stars:

"181 MB, 2.5M stars, telescope control.
"SkySafari 3 Plus adds a hugely expanded database - and wired or wireless telescope control - to our basic version. It shows you 2.5 million stars, and 31,000 deep sky objects - including the entire NGC/IC catalog. It includes over 4,000 asteroids, comets, and satellites with updateable orbits. And it can point your GoTo or "Push-To" telescope anywhere in the sky, using your iPhone/iPad/iPod's built-in WiFi, and our SkyFi or SkyWire serial accessories."

See the iTunes link above for a complete description of what is new in SkySafari 3 Plus.

See my review of SkySafari 3 for the basic functionality that is also in SkySafari 3 Plus, since all of that is still applicable to SkySafari 3 Plus. I'll refer to "SkySafari 3 Plus" as "SS3+" in this review.

The screen capture below shows the realistic sky view, without the "Natural Sky" shading, and the solid terrain at the bottom. There are many options for how to display the sky and horizon in the app Settings.


photo SS3+ has more objects in its database and a nice feature is that you can create Custom Observing Lists in the Search display (as seen on the right).

You find an object you want to add in the Search list and tap the button on the Object Info screen to add it:


photo The object is added (seen right). When you view your Observing List, you see your objects, and can even email the listing:


photo When you tap an object in the list, you get three choices (seen on the right). By tapping Edit Observation, you can select the date and time of your observation and enter some comments (seen below). One oddity I noticed when entering Comments for your observation is that the iOS spell check does not work when typing.


If you don't already log your observations, using SkySafari 3 Plus will let you begin that useful habit.

The left screen image below shows the Settings screen with the addition of the Telescope section. You can also set the app to use 24-hour time. The right screen image below shows some of the very extensive list of telescopes that can be controlled.

photo photo

In the Appearance Settings, you can change the Toolbar Order (left image below). You change the order by using the standard iOS list dragging (below right).

photo photo

photo The screen image on the right shows the telescope control display. I did some SkyFi telescope control testing with SS3+ using my 8" LX200-ACF. SS3+ quickly connected to the telescope and slewing was done using the SS3+ arrows. I then selected several objects using the Search screen and had SS3+ GOTO the objects. In all cases, the GOTO put the object in the center of the 26mm eyepiece field-of-view. During my SkyWire testing with my LX200-ACF, I stumbled on a bug that I didn't catch during my brief testing with the SkyFi on a previous night. The bug occurred in both Plus and Pro versions. With the Set Time and Location enabled in the telescope control settings, when SkySafari connected to the telescope, the date on the telescope was changed from the current date (which was 7 June) to the previous date (6 June). The time was not changed. With the setting turned off, the date in the telescope was not changed. This bug was repeatable. I also tested the SkyWire on my ETX-105PE with the AutoStar #497. The date bug did not occur there.

Using the iPhone and SkySafari 3 Plus is a fun and useful way to control a telescope.

I tested SkyWeek in SS3+ with a 3G connection; it quickly downloaded the information. I also did it via an EDGE connection. It was a little slower but still very usable. It is nice that this works well regardless of your network speed.

I have used SkySafari 2 at the telescope to help identify faint objects against the stars in the eyepiece. Recently, I was looking for Pluto with my 8" telescope and I used SkySafari 3 Pro, with its very large star database, to help me. But how does the smaller database in SS3+ work. The screen image on the left below shows the Pluto star field with the basic version of SkySafari 3. The image on the right shows it with SS3+. (You'll have to read my SkySafari 3 Pro review to see its Pluto star field.) The Star magnitude was set for +18 in both apps and the FOV was made very similar to the FOV of the 26mm eyepiece on the 8" LX200-ACF. Notice the difference in the number of stars showing due to the different sizes of the star databases.

photo photo

As you can see, the basic SkySafari 3 will likely not be very useful for faint star identification and star hopping at the telescope. But SS3+ will work fine for small telescopes for many faint objects.

SkySafari 3 Plus is a significant step up from the basic SkySafari 3 version. Three capabilities standout that can be must features for many telescope owners: telescope control, observing lists, and the larger object database. If you don't need the extremely large object database in the Pro version, then SkySafari 3 Plus will be perfect for you.

Go to the ETX site.

Go to the Cassiopeia Observatory site.

Copyright ©2011 Michael L. Weasner /