I released an Android app this week called Star Odyssey. It's available in the Android Market for devices running Android 2.1 or higher.
Way back when I was shopping for a new smartphone, there was one main reason why I wanted an Android phone: Google Sky Map. It's an Android app that seems like magic. You go out at night, hold the phone up to the sky, and it shows you a map of the stars for the exact region of sky you're looking at. Stars are labeled and constellations are drawn. As you move the phone around, the map moves with you, so it's always showing the same section of sky you're looking at. The app doesn't have to be used at night either; you can use it to see what stars are above the horizon during the day.
After I got my Android phone, I spent a number of evenings outside using the app to identify stars and constellations. It worked as advertised. When I've shown Google Sky Map to other people, everyone is just as amazed as I was when I first saw it in action. The app is just plain cool.
But after using it for a while, I wanted more. The app shows star names and constellation names, but that's it. I remember last year, on an incredibly cold Thanksgiving night in Oklahoma, showing the app to Cory and identifying the star Procyon. I wanted to know what kind of star it was, what the name meant, why it got that name, and even just how to pronounce it.
I looked for an app that would give me that information, but came up empty. So I decided to write one. The result is Star Odyssey, which is a star guide with details on over 60 of the brightest stars (the same stars that are labeled in Google Sky Map). It includes a pronunciation guide, details on each star including its brightness and distance from Earth, and it even integrates with another app (called SkEye) that lets you search for and find the star in the sky.
Finally, here's a sample of what Star Odyssey has to say about the star Procyon:
- It's the 8th brightest star in the night sky, and is only 11 light years from Earth.
- It's a binary star system.
- Procyon forms one point of the Winter Triangle. Sirius and Betelgeuse are the other two.
- It's pronounced "PRO-see-on".
- In northern latitudes, Procyon always rises before Sirius, the Dog Star. As a result, the star got the name Procyon because it comes from a Greek word meaning "before the dog".