The best stargazing apps are a great way of entering the world of stargazing and astrophotography, especially for beginners without much prior knowledge of the night sky. This nifty technology is easy to download to your smartphone or other smart device and can help you identify what you're looking at in the night sky. You can point your phone toward the part of the sky that interests you, and the app will give you lots of information about what you're seeing, pointing out constellations, galaxies and planets.
Portable, affordable, and easy to use, stargazing apps are the perfect tool for aspiring astrophotographers. They work on standard smartphones, so you can take them anywhere. GPS capabilities can provide specific information about what to look for in the night sky at your exact location.
The level of detail and functionality of these apps varies, so we've created this guide to help you compare the different apps and choose the one that's right for you. If you want a better view of the night sky, you might wish to explore our guides to the best telescopes and binoculars. And if you're keen to try astrophotography, we've also gathered together a list of the best cameras for astrophotography, or you could pair your chosen stargazing app with one of the best camera phones.
Jase Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK. They won the Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. After completing their Masters Jase has spent a good chunk of two decades studying and working in photography and optics shooting and writing all over the world for big-name brands and media outlets. Now the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching at Space.com their speciality is in low light optics and camera systems.
The quick list
See our quick list below if you want to dive right in, or scroll further down for more detailed reviews of each app.
Best stargazing app overall
SkySafari 7 Pro is a must-have app for all serious astronomers. It features a huge database, nifty telescope control and a sleek planetarium. It also lets you plan your stargazing trips and share your results with your friends.
Best for astrophotographers
Best for astrophotographers
PhotoPills is the ideal companion for astrophotographers. It helps you to work out the exact time and location to shoot from to get the perfect shot of your target celestial object. You can also share your amazing photos with the community.
Best for Apple users
Best for Apple users
Offering an easy-to-use planetarium and nice AR overlays, this is a great app for those who want to be able to point their phone straight at the sky and learn more about what's above them. Since it works indoors, you can even stargaze from your living room!
Download Night Sky 11 for iOS
Best for entertainment
Best for realism
Best for realism
Stellarium Mobile Plus features a particularly comprehensive map and database that will impress anyone who wants to learn more about the night sky. It has beautiful visuals and very realistic depictions of the stars.
Best for beginners
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Best for information
Best free app
Best for AR
The best stargazing apps we recommend in 2023
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Best stargazing app overall
✅ You're looking for a large database: SkySafari 7 Pro has one of the most extensive databases on our list.
✅ You want to be able to plan your stargazing in detail: the Observing Planner on this app is fantastic for planning your stargazing trips in advance.
✅ You already own a Celestron StarSense telescope: SkySafari 7 Pro is an ideal app for controlling Celestron StarSense telescopes.
❌ You're a new or casual stargazer: SkySafari 7 Pro is on the more expensive side and you may not need all the sophisticated features it offers.
❌ You want something quick and easy: it can take a bit of time to get the hang of.
❌ You have limited space on your device: SkySafari 7 Pro takes up a hefty 2.4GB of storage.
🔎 SkySafari 7 Pro: this is one of the best apps out there if you want to get serious about your stargazing and astrophotography. It is particularly good for telescope control and has one of the largest databases you'll find, but it may be overkill for some.
The SkySafari 7 Pro app is on the more expensive side of the market for a stargazing app, but with good reason. As we discovered in our SkySafari 7 Pro review, this app is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to its space database, offering details on millions of stars, galaxies and other space objects. The planetarium page syncs seamlessly with the night sky whatever way you're holding your phone and also offers an impressive AR overlay option via your phone's camera.
Astrophotographers will love the app's Observing Planner, which allows you to select the kind of objects that you want to observe (like galaxies, globular clusters or nebulas) and sort results by location. The Tonight's Best feature also lists the best objects on show in the sky that night, allowing you to plan your shooting schedule in fine detail.
Seasoned stargazers will appreciate SkySafari 7 Pro's ability to control Celestron StarSense telescopes via WiFi. The app also adds a social element to stargazing with OneSky, which shows you the most popular object currently being viewed by other users, and SkyCast, which lets you share your observations with another user.
You can now get all these features for an even lower price than the previous SkySafari 6 Pro, as well as being treated to a slicker user interface and a greatly expanded database. The only thing to be aware of is that this app takes up a large amount of storage space on your device.
- Read our full SkySafari 7 Pro review
- Download SkySafari 6 Pro for iOS and Android
- Download SkySafari 7 Pro for iOS and Android
|User Interface||Neat, fast and responsive||★★★★★|
|Key Features||Huge database and telescope control||★★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Useful light pollution map||★★★★★|
Best for astrophotographers
✅ Your main interest is astrophotography: PhotoPills truly cannot be beaten for planning astrophotography shooting sessions.
✅ You want to get the perfect shot: PhotoPills will help you plan and set yourself up to get incredible shots that might otherwise feel impossible.
✅ You want to feel part of a community: PhotoPills lets you share photos and points of interest with other astrophotographers.
❌ Your main interest is stargazing: PhotoPills is really geared up towards astrophotographers, so other apps are better for pure stargazing.
❌ You want something simple and straightforward: with its array of features and functionality, PhotoPills takes a while to get the hang of.
🔎 PhotoPills: we think PhotoPills is a must-have app for those who are serious about astrophotography and want to get the perfect shot of particular objects in the night sky. Its astrophotography features are unmatched, but it's not ideal for casual stargazing.
PhotoPills is a sophisticated stargazing app, calculator, map and celestial almanac rolled into one. It scored top marks in our PhotoPills app review and will be especially appealing to astrophotographers since it helps you to work out the date, time and the best shooting spot to capture your chosen celestial event. In addition to this, it can suggest an appropriate lens to use and calculate the optimal exposure and depth of field settings for your target object — awesome!
PhotoPills is especially well-suited for astrophotography involving capturing celestial events behind specific landmarks. You can use the app to plan your shoot and find the perfect spot — capture the Milky Way rising over a mountain or the Andromeda Galaxy setting behind a castle. Once you have your shot, you can share it with the wider PhotoPills community.
Because it has so many functionalities, PhotoPills takes some time to fully get to grips with. The Planner feature shows you the exact sightline, azimuth and altitude for the sun and the moon. The app's ability to trace the path of upcoming events like lunar and solar eclipses across a world map enables you to plan the perfect location and timing for your shots well in advance. When you're out in the field shooting on location, the AR and Night AR modes even allow you to overlay the paths of the sun and the moon on the sky in front of you. In our review, we also tested out the Visibility GC feature and were able to use this to take some stunning photos of the Milky Way's galactic core.
The PhotoPills app is perfect for serious astrophotographers who want to plan their shots carefully in advance and can take full advantage of its wealth of specialist features. Beginners or more casual users might find it a bit complex and expensive.
|User Interface||Simple grid design||★★★★★|
|Key Features||Lots of tools and calculators||★★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Truly exhaustive planning features||★★★★★|
Best for Apple users
✅ You're a beginner: Night Sky 11 is easy to use, even with little prior knowledge.
✅ You enjoy AR features: there's a lot on offer in terms of AR on this app, especially on the premium version.
✅ You want to try astrophotography: Night Sky 11 is good for getting your first taste of astrophotography with your phone.
❌ You're a more seasoned astronomer: those with more experience might prefer an app with more extensive features like telescope control.
❌ You're bothered by too much on the screen: although you can filter what it shows, the interface on Night Sky 11 can look a little cluttered.
🔎 Night Sky 11: we think this is a great app for Apple users who are starting out on their stargazing journey. It includes novel AR functionality as well as basic astrophotography features, but more experienced users may be looking for more than it can offer.
Night Sky 11 is a relatively new stargazing app, but don't let that deter you. It's an aesthetically-pleasing, easy-to-use app with one big caveat: it only works on Apple devices. That said, it is usable on anything from a Mac PC to an Apple watch.
The app has an AR star map, and you can simply point your device to the heavens wherever you are to reveal the constellations, galaxies and other objects in the night sky. Night Sky 11 also lets you set notifications for things like the best times to look for the International Space Station (ISS) which we thought was handy.
The premium version does set itself apart from the free one through a variety of different features. When you invest in Night Sky +, you have access to the full 1.7 billion star library, which is restricted in the free version. The AR Grand Orrery function also overlays a whole solar system map onto a surface of your choosing and lets you interact with it. If you are serious about stargazing, then Night Sky+ is worth the investment. It offers a wide range of features that can help you learn more about the night sky and enjoy it to the fullest.
If you're an astrophotographer, you'll be interested in Night Sky 11's focus, noise reduction and ISO adjustment that are included, although they do make the interface appear quite cluttered.
Overall, this app is a great all-rounder, but it may be more suited to those just beginning their astronomy journey rather than to seasoned astrophotographers who may expect more sophisticated features from their stargazing app.
|User Interface||Handy 360 degree function||★★★★|
|Key Features||Novel AR planetary portals||★★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Auto or manual adjustment options||★★★★★|
Best for entertainment
✅ You want to learn lots: the NASA app makes a whole host of space information available at your fingertips.
✅ You want to follow NASA missions: the NASA app is sure to keep you up to date with all the latest photos and videos from their missions.
✅ You enjoy interactive features: with the NASA app, you can virtually whizz around the universe and zoom in on different objects.
❌ You want a traditional stargazing app: the NASA app isn't the best choice if you simply want to point your phone at the sky and find out what's up there.
❌ You're looking for an app for astrophotography: this isn't an area where the NASA app particularly shines and other apps would be better suited.
🔎 NASA app: the NASA app is a great educational resource to learn about space and keep up to date on all the latest news from NASA missions. However, it is limited on stargazing and astrophotography features and more geared towards entertainment.
The NASA app is less of a traditional stargazing app and more of an interactive information explorer centered on the missions of the famous space agency. In our NASA app review we found that the app contains a host of informative features, and with everything in the app being absolutely free, it's a great option to satisfy the curiosity of space fans of all ages.
NASA's official app is a must-have for anyone interested in space exploration. It offers a visual treasure trove of the latest images and videos from NASA missions, as well as the ability to track current missions, view incredible images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and track the International Space Station's location. The app also includes a TV and Audio section where you can follow NASA's media releases and even view images of Earth beamed down from the ISS itself.
The iOS version of the app has limited stargazing capabilities in its SkyView feature. This produces a planetarium showing the sky above either against a black background or using the device's camera to create a transparent AR view, but it is more basic than the AR features offered by some of the other apps on the list. Perhaps more impressive are its interactive Solar System and Eyes on Asteroids features, which enable you to whizz around the solar system and tap on different planets and asteroids to learn more information about these different space objects.
Overall, NASA has produced a comprehensive free app that will help you learn lots of information about the solar system and NASA's current missions in a fun and interactive way. But some of the other apps on this list might be more suitable if you're looking for a more traditional stargazing app or require more comprehensive astrophotography features.
|User Interface||Simple with good visuals||★★★★★|
|Key Features||Lots of pictures, videos and news||★★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||SkyView feature only on iOS||★★★★|
Best for realism
✅ You're a stargazing beginner: Stellarium Mobile Plus offers traditional stargazing app functionality with a large database and no prior knowledge required.
✅ You want the chance to view objects close up: Stellarium Mobile Plus lets you view HD photos of the moon, nebulas and galaxies.
✅ You need telescope control: this app offers effective telescope control via Bluetooth or WiFi.
❌ You're mainly interested in astrophotography: although this does allow you to locate and track particular objects, some other apps have more comprehensive astrophotography features.
❌ You're looking to save money: you could try the free browser version of Stellarium instead, but that does mean losing the offline functionality of the app.
🔎 Stellarium Mobile Plus: we found the app to be particularly impressive for its illustrations and HD photos, giving newcomers to stargazing a very immersive experience. It also offers effective telescope control, but keen astrophotographers may want to look elsewhere.
The mobile version of the well-known open-source desktop app is a fantastic app that's known for the quality of its constellation illustrations. However, unlike its Windows and Mac counterparts, you need to pay for it. After all, programmers need to make a living too, but at $19.99, it won't break the bank. There is a free version, but as expected, it doesn't have as many features as the Plus version.
What you get with Stellarium is a database that contains more stars than any other app (but not as many asteroids as Sky Safari). During our Stellarium Mobile Plus review we were impressed by the GPS positioning. If you give the app the relevant permissions, it automatically displays a night sky on your phone that is very similar to the actual sky above you. You can discover and identify your favorite planets and constellations, track moving satellites and access data on the stars and planets of your choice, including myths and legends from other cultures. We were once unconvinced that it was as polished as the desktop version, but all that's been put to bed now with the new version.
When you zoom in, you can see HD pictures of nebulas and galaxies, albeit some, like the Pleiades, could benefit from an update. Pointing your phone at the sky will reveal the objects you can see, while the app also easily connects to most telescopes. Overall, we think this is one of the better astronomy apps out there. The Google Play Store rating of 4.9 stars out of 5 (based on the feedback of 5.77K reviews) is a testament to its high performance.
|User Interface||Minimalist and intuitive||★★★★|
|Key Features||Effective planetarium and telescope control||★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Useful observation tools||★★★★|
Best for beginners
✅ You're a beginner: we think the easy set-up and navigation on this app make it a great option for beginners.
✅ You want to plan a stargazing or shooting session: the Visible Tonight feature and option to speed up time make it easy to plan ahead.
✅ You're looking for an affordable option: we think that Star Walk 2 offers a lot of features for a relatively low price.
❌ You want to control a telescope: you won't be able to use Star Walk 2 to control your telescope.
❌ You want a very extensive database: while Star Walk 2 has a fair offering, some apps on this list offer a broader database.
🔎 Star Walk 2: this app is a great option for beginners and comes in at a low price point even on the paid version. It's full of handy features for learning more about the night sky, but the lack of telescope control may be a deal-breaker for some.
Star Walk 2 is an augmented reality experience for the night sky that is available as a paid-for ($2.99) and free version, with the latter displaying ads and lacking in features. It's designed to be experienced from your phone screen rather than by connecting to a scope, and its easy interface makes it well-suited for beginners. We reviewed Star Walk 2 back in October 2021, but since then there have been a number of updates that have improved stability, refined notification settings, added an events calendar and enhanced accuracy.
When you use your phone's camera to look up into the sky, the app will overlay constellations in the direction you're facing. You can also track the movement of planets and, if you pay for the upgrade, objects such as the International Space Station and the Starlink satellites. There's even an accompanying audio track to add a bit of atmosphere, but you can turn it off whenever you want if you find it irritating.
We particularly liked the Visible Tonight section that guides you to spectacular objects you can see on a given evening, with photos and a link to its Wikipedia page for more information. Even at its most expensive, Star Walk 2 is a low-cost way to experience augmented astronomy. The free version is perfectly usable if you can live with its limitations, though we think it's definitely worth $2.99.
|User Interface||Intuitive and customizable||★★★★|
|Key Features||AR overlay and filter options||★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Visible Tonight feature for planning||★★★★|
Best for information
✅ You want to accurately locate different objects: we found this app very accurate when it came to locating objects in the night sky.
✅ You want access to lots of information: the app gives helpful descriptions of whatever object it identifies in your view, including Wikipedia links for further reading.
❌ You want impressive AR features: we found the AR screen too dark to be particularly useful at night.
❌ You're a more experienced astronomer: you may want to check out other apps with more features and functionality.
🔎 SkyView: this is an affordable and easy-to-use option for beginner stargazers that will allow you to accurately locate objects in the night sky and learn much more about them. However, it lacks the more sophisticated features of some other apps on the list.
This user-friendly and affordable stargazing app has been around for a long time and has received many upgrades along the way. Using an interactive star map, it can identify constellations and other objects in the night sky and show their motion as they pass across the center of the screen. There is a free version, but the full version is only $1.99.
Where the app falls down slightly is that you need to be very precise in your positioning to get the information you need. If you move even slightly away from the object you're interested in, the details vanish — perhaps the designers hadn't intended it for handheld viewing but rather for use on a tripod mount. In our SkyView review, we also found the AR screen to be extremely dark, even for viewing at night, but the graphics are clear and the illustrations of constellations are attractive.
When you do manage to get it properly aligned, the app has a lot of information to offer. You can bring up full descriptions and even link externally to the object's Wikipedia page for more details.
The free version has ads and also contains the details of fewer stars and constellations than the paid-for app. You can upgrade by buying packs of extra stars, satellites and even a music package. Telescope integration is limited, but there's enough detail and functionality on offer here to make it attractive to novice astronomers.
|User Interface||Easy to use and set up||★★★★|
|Key Features||Interactive star map and object descriptions||★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Accurate location features||★★★★|
Best free app
✅ You're new to stargazing: since Star Chart is free, it's a great way to try out this new hobby and is ideal for anyone on a tight budget.
✅ You want to keep up to date on key celestial events: the calendar feature will let you know what's upcoming and the time shift feature lets you catch up on anything you missed.
❌ Paywalls frustrate you: there's lots on offer for free with this app, but it also comes with lots of in-app purchases.
❌ You need higher level features: since it's a free app, it can't compete with some of the more expensive stargazing apps on the market.
🔎 Star Chart: we think this is the best free stargazing app available and thoroughly recommend giving it a try. It will particularly appeal to people who are new to stargazing and just getting to grips with this new hobby as it offers lots of exciting features in an easy-to-use format.
Star Chart stands out from others in this list due to the amount it has on offer for free. This makes it a great option for people who are just beginning their foray into the world of astronomy and want to see what stargazing apps are all about before committing money to their new hobby.
In our Star Chart review, we were impressed with Star Chart's ability to use a device's built-in compass to locate where you are and what you see when pointing your device at the skies. For devices without a compass, manual scrolling is also supported. The app uses some nice AR technology to track your movements and locations and functions in both portrait and landscape mode depending on your preference. The calendar can alert you to interesting events (such as meteor showers) happening in the night sky, and the nifty Time Shift feature even allows you to skip backward and forwards in time to see past and future celestial events.
While the basic Star Chart app offers exploration of the skies, there are also a lot of upgrades that can expand the number of targets available in the app. These vary from extending the solar system so that it includes dwarf planets and more planetary moons to tracking comets and satellites. It's an amazing app for both beginners and experts alike, and with a price tag of zero (although there are some in-app purchases) it's hard not to recommend Star Chart.
|User Interface||Simple and streamlined||★★★★★|
|Key Features||Accurate GPS and 3D universe||★★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Handy calendar and time shift feature||★★★★|
Best for AR
✅ You enjoy AR: this app has beautiful AR functionality, along with interactive 3D models.
✅ You're a beginner: this app is quick and easy to get to grips with and doesn't require any prior knowledge.
✅ You want to learn lots: we found this app very educational.
❌ You're easily irritated by ads: unless you're willing to upgrade to the paid version, the ads on this app can feel a bit intrusive and disrupt the immersive experience.
❌ You like to use your phone in landscape mode: one drawback of this app is that it won't rotate into landscape mode, so you can only use it in portrait.
🔎 Sky Tonight: this is a user-friendly app that is easy to set up for beginners, includes beautiful AR overlays and offers lots of information. We found upgrading to the premium version worthwhile to get rid of the ads and unlock extra features.
Sky Tonight is an excellent augmented reality iOS and Android app for pinpointing night sky features and identifying what you're looking at. The app comes from Vito Technology, the same people who brought us Star Walk 2, and like that app, it provides a view of the night sky and the wonders you can see in it. As well as identifying and learning information about objects, you can also tap on planets to show their path through the night sky and where they will be on different dates. In our Sky Tonight app review we found the app easy to use and visually pleasing, awarding it four out of five stars.
Sky Tonight is free but offers in-app purchases of between $0.99 and $7.99 per item. The minimal white-on-blue look of the app's map is very attractive, so it's a shame it will spend so much of its time in the ruddy tones of night mode. Still, better a red map than ruined night vision.
With its nicely illustrated map of the constellations and the ability to use your device's camera to identify objects, you'll not be short of reading material when you head back inside and read up on the sights you've seen. There are several astronomy apps on the market, but few manage to present information with the style and depth that Sky Tonight does. It's definitely worthy of its place on this list.
|User Interface||Slick and easy to operate||★★★★|
|Key Features||Impressive AR and interactive 3D models||★★★★|
|Astrophotography Features||Visible tonight and calendar features||★★★★|
Stargazing apps: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best stargazing app for a telescope?
SkySafari 7 Pro is the best stargazing app for use with a telescope because of everything else it does. Not only does it allow tracking with Celestron StarSense telescopes, but it has new LiveSky and SkyCast features, too.
What is the best stargazing app for iPhone and iPad?
The Night Sky 11 stargazing app is best for iOS Apple device users. In fact, it should work on iPad, Mac and Apple TV (though we haven't tested the Apple TV version). It has a detailed user interface and is capable of adjusting for light pollution. We gave it nearly full marks in our full review because how easy it is to use, especially for beginners.
What is the best stargazing app for Android?
SkySafari 7 Pro is the best stargazing app overall, according to our extensive full reviews. We think it's the best stargazing app for Android devices, but it's also compatible with iOS devices and it won't disappoint on either platform.
How we test the best stargazing apps
In order to guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best stargazing apps to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every stargazing app through a rigorous review to fully test each software. Each stargazing app is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its layout and design, to how well it functions as a stargazing software and its performance when observing the night sky.
Each stargazing app is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each stargazing app and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.
We look at how easy each stargazing app is to operate, whether it contains the latest up-to-date observing technology like VR and synchronizing with calendars. We'll also make suggestions if a particular stargazing app would benefit from any additional accessories to give you the best observing experience possible.
With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on stargazing apps, whether you should purchase one or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.