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?


If you have an android phone with geolocation and compass, Google nightsky is outstanding. Or if you're on your computer http://www.google.com/sky/ 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 http://www.stellarium.org/. 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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