Our universe is filled with countless wonders: planets, double stars, nebulae, galaxies, and much more. And as a hobby, astronomy provides so much to explore. But a dark sky with seemingly countless stars can appear overwhelming to many just getting into astronomy (I know it was for me). Just where does a newbie begin?
With that question in mind, our staff has created a new tablet app to guide novice observers: Discover Astronomy. For decades, the insightful editors of Astronomy magazine have been guiding observers across the constellations, through the solar system, and into the deep sky so they can get the most from their time under the stars. And now, with this app, Northern Hemisphere observers can take expert guidance with them wherever they go.
Discover Astronomy eases users into stargazing by having them get to know the night sky with just their unaided eyes and binoculars through interactive articles, videos, galleries, and star charts. What are the signpost stars and star patterns of each season? What should a beginner observe first? How can novices understand where to look when they hear about a sky event in the news? The answers are all in this handy tablet app.
After users feel comfortable with the major constellation guideposts of each season, they can grab their binoculars and Discover Astronomy to explore the Moon and the brightest star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. Hopefully, soon they'll be craving the views only a telescope can provide, which this app helps with as well. Astronomy’s editors guide users through the buying process and get them started observing the planets, the Sun, and hundreds of stunning deep-sky objects. Soon, they'll be able to share the skies with others.
But don't expect to find a simple smartphone app with Discover Astronomy. As I've personally learned from my colleagues, there’s something special about being able to understand the night sky and share it with others. Like me, beginners will soon learn that such star map apps are only crutches and will simply slow them down once they pick up binoculars or buy their first telescope.
Instead, this app focuses on truly getting into the hobby, not just being an armchair observer. The videos make users feel like Astronomy's editors are along for the ride, acting as mentors when needed. And the interactive maps, galleries, and guides make the hobby come to life with just a few finger taps.
A special thanks to former Editor Robert Burnham, current Editor David J. Eicher, and Senior Editors Richard Talcott and Michael E. Bakich for expanding my observing horizons. Now it’s their turn to help the next generation with Discover Astronomy.
Download the Discovery Astronomy tablet app for only $1.99 at the Apple App Store (for iPads) or the Google Play store (for Android tablets) to get started — or even if you're an experienced observer and just want a handy reference. Or gift it to that special observing novice in your life. You'll be glad you did.