Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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I want to photograph the night sky and maybe get a Milkyway in the shot but dont know what position or time. Can you please recommend a software or a website that can let me know the position of the stars and what would be a good time to shoot them?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you have an android phone with geolocation and compass, Google nightsky is outstanding. Or if you're on your computer google sky. I'm sure you could find better software for the task, but if you're just trying to get the milky way or a constellation or two, it will do the trick.

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There is a wonderful and hugely popular, open source, cross platform based software called Stellarium which is available at It is free and has tons of features. You can track almost every celestial object with it.

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There is a bunch of real time apps for the iPhone and iPad. I played with an app a few months ago which used the camera with the location services and it was projecting constellations and stars directly onto the image captured by the video camera in real time. I think the app is SkyView. (there is a free version of that too) Pretty cool but it was processor-intensive so newest gen device would probably work better (4s) you will also need a pretty fast 3G/4G with strong signal or wifi with location services on.

The nice thing about this app was that as I was moving the iphone around with the camera on the stars and constellations were being continually updated.

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On iOS my favorite night sky app is Planets. I have personally used it with good results for the following tasks:

  • find out when there is no moon, to avoid light pollution
  • determine the best time of night to capture the milky way on a given location
  • locate planets and constellations

I have found it accurate for the area where I live (USA, Pacific Northwest) and also during a trip in Ethiopia.

Planets is a free app.

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