Back to Mobile View

Skip to Content

Amateur astronomers: Log your sessions with Observation 1.1 for iPhone

Being proper geeks, a lot of us here at TUAW are amateur astronomers (we won't count Mel Martin, who is so incredibly good at astrophotography that he should be considered a professional). Although we've talked about numerous "planetarium" apps such as Pocket Universe, Star Walk, Distant Suns, and SkyVoyager, these apps simply show you what's going to be visible in the night sky at some specific point in time or show information about deep sky objects.

A new iPhone app from Water-Powered Ideas, Observation [US$4.99, iTunes Link] is designed to do something completely different. It lets you determine whether or not it's going to be worth taking the scope out tonight through forecasts from Atilla Danko's great Clear Sky Chart website, and then provides a way to log your observing sessions with your iPhone.

When you launch Observation, the app will ask if it can use your current location. When you tap the OK button, the app creates a list of "Nearby Charts." These are observing locations that have been entered into the Clear Sky Chart site. Once a chart has been chosen, the forecasted observing conditions at the site are displayed at the present time and for the next 18 hours. To flip through the hourly conditions, you simply swipe left or right.

The conditions show the general sky conditions with a weather icon, the current or forecasted temperature, the wind velocity, the humidity, and information on transparency of the sky and seeing. Transparency refers to how clear the atmosphere is (i.e., no smoke, smog, clouds, or dust would mean the sky is very transparent), while seeing describes how still the air is (very still air means excellent seeing).
For the night hours, the conditions weather icon shows a moon icon. I'd like to see the developers change this to a moon-phase icon, so you can see the current phase. It would also be useful to know the moon's angle above the horizon at any forecast time.

General settings for the app provide a list of observable objects and your observing equipment. You can add your specific equipment to the list for easy logging later. You can choose the units (Miles/Kilometers, Celsius/Fahrenheit) that are displayed on the conditions screens, turn on or off a red-light night mode, choose to export your entries as a CSV formatted file, and set up a custom location if you're observing from somewhere other than where your iPhone currently is.

When you're logging an observation, the date, time, your GPS coordinates, and the seeing and transparency readings are automatically entered. When you select an object from the built-in catalog, its right ascension, declination, and magnitude are entered automatically as well. To enter the equipment you're using at the time (for example, a specific eyepiece and filter combination), you select those items from your pre-entered list.

I'd personally like to see the conditions window expand to the edges of the iPhone screen instead of being in a smaller box. It would allow for more information to be placed in the conditions window.

For a quick glance at Observation, please visit the gallery below.

© 2014 AOL Inc. All Rights Reserved.