Today only, Carina Software, one of the premier publishers in the field, is giving away Mac, PC, and iPhone versions of their software for next to nothing. It's in honor of today's 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. On the iPhone, they are free, for the PC and Mac version, US$00.01. Note: Due to server overload the Mac and PC versions have been pulled for now. Here is the latest from the Carina website:
"First, our iPhone apps SkyVoyager and SkyGazer will continue to be free downloads from the iTunes app store all day long. No changes there!
At approximately 6:20 AM PDT this morning, we recieved a call from our web-hosting provider, bluehost.com, asking us to suspend the one-cent download offer for our Voyager and SkyGazer desktop software. Demand was so high that our automated serial-number generator, which emails serial numbers to customers, was sending out several thousand emails per hour - putting us in violation of our Terms of Service (TOS) agreement, and causing our email service to be suspended.
Our email has been restored, and we are catching up on our backlog of missing-serial-number emails manually. All customers who have purchased one-cent downloadable copies of SkyGazer and Voyager should recieve their serial numbers from us by the close of business today, Monday, July 20th, 2009.
After continued discussion with our web-hosting provider, it is unlikely that we will be able to continue providing our desktop software as one-cent downloads for the remainder of the day."
I'll focus on the iPhone offerings, in particular the more advanced SkyVoyager [App Store link]. Carina is also offering SkyGazer for free, which is slightly less advanced and has fewer features. I'd go for SkyVoyager at these prices.
OK, what can you do with this software? Well, just about anything to help you under the stars or to plan a night of observing. The software picks up your location from the GPS, and of course the date and time. It will display more than 300,000 stars and 30,000 deep sky objects (clusters, nebula, galaxies). You can see the night sky from any location on earth, and on any date you choose, even going back or forward centuries.
The software also contains NASA images, and work from other astrophotographers. Amazingly, if you have a computer controlled telescope, like a Meade, Celestron, and some other less well known brands, SkyVoyager will soon be able to wirelessly connect to it and steer to objects you select on the iPhone. You can get a complete list of supported scopes here. Note: To make the connection to your scope you'll need a piece of hardware, the Sky-Fi connector, not available until late September. Go to this page for more info.
There are a lot of iPhone/iPod touch astronomy apps out there. SkyVoyager is full featured, and has very deep and complete data bases, especially considering it is running on a phone or iPod touch. It updates comet positions, along with asteroid and satellite orbital data. It requires a WiFi network for these downloads.
The only thing I'd like to see is the ability to use the iPhone tilt/tip sensors and compass to match your sky chart to where it is pointing in the sky. That works really well on Pocket Universe, which I reviewed recently.
SkyVoyager normally sells for $14.95, so free is pretty compelling. Remember, it's today only. My fellow amateur astronomer colleague Steve Sande is reviewing the desktop versions of this powerful software today as well, so be sure to check out his thoughts. They are selling for only a penny, so it's truly an 'astronomical' saving.
Check these screen shots to see SkyVoyager in action: