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Posted: 11 June 2011
Updated: 30 April 2012

photo SkySafari 3 Pro
Southern Stars

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Southern Stars provided me with a "redeem code" for "SkySafari 3 Pro" (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 Plus". All three versions are "universal" apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. I used SkySafari 3 Pro on my iPhone 4.

As described by Southern Stars:

"418 MB, 15M stars, telescope control.
"The all-new SkySafari 3 Pro has the largest database of any astronomy app, period. It contains everything in SkySafari 3 Plus - but also includes over 15.3 million stars from the Hubble Guide Star catalog, plus 740,000 galaxies down to 18th magnitude, and over 550,000 solar system objects - including every comet and asteroid ever discovered. Yet it runs just as fast and smoothly as our $3 basic version."

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

Read my reviews of SkySafari 3 and SkySafari 3 Plus for the functionality that is also in SkySafari 3 Pro, since all of that is still applicable to SkySafari 3 Pro. I'll refer to "SkySafari 3 Pro" as "SS3Pro" in this review.

I tested telescope control with SS3Pro with a SkyFi connected to my 8" LX200-ACF. SS3Pro quickly connected to the telescope and slewing was done using the SS3Pro arrows. I then selected several objects using the Search screen and had SS3Pro GOTO the objects. In all cases, the GOTO put the object in the center of the 26mm eyepiece field-of-view. This is a fun and useful way to control a telescope, especially with the much larger database in the Pro version. The database considerably exceeds the number of objects in the AutoStar II database.

I did see a Set Time and Location date bug when using SS3Pro with the SkyWire, as discussed in the SkySafari 3 Plus review.

Of course, the biggest attraction of SS3Pro is the VERY large object database. To visually demonstrate the difference, first look at screen captures from SkySafari 3 basic (left) and SkySafari 3 Plus (right):

photo photo

They show an "eyepiece" view of the stars around Pluto. Now compare those to the screen capture from SkySafari 3 Pro:


The star magnitude was set for +18 in all three apps and the FOV was made very similar to the FOV of the 26mm eyepiece on the 8" LX200-ACF. The number of stars displayed by the three apps dramatically shows the differing sizes of the star databases.

For my purposes, I find it easy to zoom in with the app until the Field-of-View (FOV) closely matches my eyepiece FOV. I then take a screen shot on the iPhone and switch to the Photos app. I open the "photo" of the screen and lock the orientation on the device. That lets me rotate the photo until the stars match the view in the eyepiece. It then becomes a simple matter of identifying star patterns and star hopping until the desired object is reached. Using SkySafari in this manner is so much more convenient than using large bound books of detailed star charts.

Which SkySafari 3 version is right for you? For me, the Pro version is a must. Many times when at the 8" LX200-ACF telescope, I need a detailed star chart to help identify faint objects against the background stars. Sometimes the objects are asteroids, the planet Pluto (I'm a traditionalist), or a faint comet. The 15 million stars in its database will certainly help with that. I hope these reviews will let you decide for yourself which version best fits your needs at the telescope, regardless of the telescope size or capabilities.

Start of today's update

I recently purchased a 64GB new iPad (with Retina Display). One of the reasons I got it was to use SkySafari Pro on the iPad in my observatory. Using SkySafari Pro on the iPhone has been very handy and I've used it a lot while at the telescope. But the small screen sometimes has its limitations. So, what is it like to use SkySafari Pro 3.2 (Retina Display enabled) at the telescope and to control the telescope? See my 29 April 2012 "Cassiopeia Observatory" Report where I discuss the first use of the new iPad with SkySafari Pro.

Go to the ETX site.

Go to the Cassiopeia Observatory site.

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