Simulation Curriculum's SkySafari 5 for iOS: Impressive New Features

SkySafari is an excellent sky simulation and charting app for iOS. With it, you can view the sky at any date and time, identify objects in the sky, read about celestial objects, learn the constellations and even control an amateur telescope. On December 15, SkySafari 5 Pro was released, with Basic and Plus versions to follow soon. The suite of apps has an impressive list of new features.


I reviewed SKySafari 3.x back on 10 April 2012, and ever since, it has been my favorite sky charting program. For reference: "Explore the Sky with the Best: SkySafari for iPad."

The first thing I did was to install it on my iPad Pro, and it's absolutely amazing. Here's a photo, along with a 4.75-inch (12 cm) stylus for scale.

Stunning on the iPad Pro. Great on iPad Air. Very usable on iPhone.

You should know that SkySafari for iOS comes in three versions. Here's the overview from Simulation Curriculum.

  • SkySafari 5 (US$2.99, 180 MB), basic version intended for the widest possible audience of casual stargazers. Available 12/21.
  • SkySafari 5 Plus ($14.99, 430 MB), enhanced version with telescope control and solar system fly-through mode. Available 12/21.
  • SkySafari 5 Pro ($39.99, 1.6 GB), premium version with all features of Plus, plus professional-grade astronomy database. Available 12/16.

Learn the constellations.

The new features in all three versions are:

  • Support for Apple Watch.
  • Social media sharing.
  • Refreshed look-and-feel, with enhanced sky and translucent horizon panoramas.
  • New Tonight at a Glance view, with notifications of planet and brightest satellite rising and setting.
  • Complete audio redesign with new and user-selectable sounds.
  • Improved motion tracking for highly accurate celestial object identification.
  • Revised and expanded encyclopedia of astronomical objects, with illustrations.

Learn about our galaxy, the Milky Way.

The basic version is a great value for the beginning amateur astronomer or curious sky gazer. The more advanced versons, SkySafari 5 Plus and Pro have these added enhancements.

  • iCloud sync for settings and observing lists.
  • Revised deep sky object database.
  • On-line archive of astronomical observing lists, plus new “tour mode”.
  • Digitized Sky Survey viewer for import of NASA/STScI DSS images.
  • Improved multi-star alignment for telescopes with digital setting circles.
  • Galaxy View with 3D representation of deep sky object positions in the Milky Way (Pro only).

Simulation Curriculum's lead app developer Tim DeBenedictis told me that it took nine months to develop version 5. He noted that, "Our Apple users expect best-in-class visual aesthetics and cutting edge hardware support. And they’re ruthlessly demanding when it comes to fast, solid, bug-free feature implementation. With SkySafari 5, I genuinely think we’ve delivered all of that."

In my 2012 review, I wrote:

The celestial mechanics, proper use of data sources, mathematics and documentation are extraordinarily demanding in astronomy apps. This kind of app can’t be thrown together by an ordinary developer, and the harsh eyes of professional astronomers, professors and the entire weight of the history of astronomy can come crashing down on the slightest bit of unprofessionalism or carelessness. This app measures up in every way, and even exceeds my highest expectations based on my own career in the field. Considering that it’s priced at $3 makes it even more amazing (and valuable).

If you have even the slightest interest in what you can see and learn in Earth's sky, this is one of the very best iOS apps you'll ever use.


Postscript: Here is a more in-depth review of SkySafari 5 by an accomplished amateur astronomer.

Product: SkySafari 5 for iOS

Company: Simulation Curriculum

List Price: See article


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Full support for iOS 9, Apple Watch support, "Tonight at a Glance," satellite (including ISS) notifications, solar system fly-bys, social media support, iCloud sync of settings, telescope control, observing list, new sound effects in this version.