Posted: 27 January 2013
Meade has released a free planetarium app for iOS devices called SkyKey. The app works on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad with iOS 4.2 or later. The app is not "universal" and so the larger iPad display is not used. For my testing, I used an iPhone 4 with iOS 6.0.1.
When you run the app, you are first taken to the main menu screen:
The app is locked to a landscape display. Tapping the menu options brings up an appropriate display. Selecting Guided Tours, then Best Objects, shows this selection screen:
There do seem to be some oddities in the Guided Tours "best objects". For example, M32 is listed but not M31. M32 is not exactly my idea of a "best object". When you select an object, you are taken to a star map that is "live". The "red arrow" points in the direction to move the device to get to the object in the sky:
You can pinch to zoom in and out on the star map:
Using the menu options selection button (...) in the upper right any time the star map is displayed, you can set some parameters for the app, including the date/time and display settings:
You can select objects from the main menu. For example, Deep Sky, which brings up a scrollable Messier listing (the only catalog available):
Selecting an object will bring up a display with information about the object:
You can also view a picture of the object, and when available, listen to an audio clip or view a video clip. I suspect these clips are taken from Meade's "Astronomer Inside" audio and video selections from the AudioStar (with optional LCD display) and are nice features of SkyKey. I selected M13, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. The video for the object was about globular clusters in general:
Meade is a late-comer to smartphone applications, but I welcome their arrival. SkyKey will be a useful app for those who don't already have a planetarium app on their iDevice. Other than the audio and video information in SkyKey, there is currently not much in the app that would sway users of other apps to SkyKey.
However, now that Meade has released an iOS app, we can hope that more will be forthcoming. Adding telescope control (à la SkySafari Plus and SkySafari Pro) would seem to be a simple thing for Meade to do. I still long for an AutoStar handcontroller replacement iOS app that would mimic all of the functions of the AutoStar and AutoStar II handcontrollers. Meade would just need to make wireless and/or wired adapters available (or use the existing SkyFi or SkyWire adapters).
As I say to new telescope owners, I can now also say to Meade: "Welcome to a Bigger Universe".
Go to the ETX site.
Go to the Cassiopeia Observatory site.