Some of the more frequent questions I'm asked is how I know when and where the Milky Way will be visible and how do I know what I'm looking at in the night sky? In this age of smartphones the answer the simple, the apps.
Kindred Spirit Mailbox - Bird Island, NC
Sky Guide by Fifth Star Labs available on iOS is my goto for what's in the night sky. You can open the app and pan your phone around to figure out what that bright star is or you can choose a future date and time for an idea of what you will be able to see. Not only does it have huge catalog of celestial objects but it will also show you which satellite is shooting past.
Photopills is my primary nightscape photography app. It will give you the timing for rise and set of the sun, moon, Milky Way as well as eclipses and meteor showers for any place on earth. You simpley locate the spot you plan to shoot on the map, place the pin and then scroll through over 10 different sections of info.
This app is not free but it is well worth the $10 dollars. It's not a subscription, that price will get you all updates as well.
No other app on my devices gets more use than this one and it even has several handy widgets for your home screen that will keep you informed at a glance. It also features a very robust VR screen that will overlay the Moon, Sun and Milky Way on your camera view so you can visualize exactly how your shot will look.
I can't recommend this app enough and it's available for iOS and Android. The app creators offer some great Youtube content on how to use it as well as how to photograph upcoming astronomical events. App Store
My primary weather app is WeatherUnderground. It's a very robust and accurate weather app that is available on iOS, Android and the web. One of the best features is the hourly forecast that extends for several days. It helps me decide if it's going to be worth heading out in the wee hours or if I need to stay in. Great radar maps show incoming thunderstorms.
This little app is my ace in the hole. It offers both free and paid version and allows me to see what the cloud cover will look like several days out. You can choose a location on the map or let the GPS auto-locate you. It's a simple design, blue is clear skies and while is cloudy.
One thing I've found is that the farther out in time you look the less accurate the app is. I find it's most useful 36 to 24 hours out.
One of the big benefits to using Astrospheric is being able to get an overview of the cloud cover. Several years ago I was one of the few photographers in South Carolina able to get a unique alignment because I was able to see a potential gap in the clouds at spot close enough for me to get to.
It also gives you a visual of sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset as well as potential ISS passes. Plus the temp/dew point features will give you a headsup on possible lens fogging situations.
These apps are the sources of information that make many of my night sky images possible. Without them it would truly be just a guessing game. Most are available free for anyone to use. If you have questions about them or their use just let me know.
Have a topic or tip you'd like me to cover just leave me a comment.
Please check out my YouTube Channel for more tips, tutorials and walkthroughs.