Our Favorite Free Astronomy App: Celestron SkyPortal


Connect your iPhone to your Telescope for WiFi Stargazing

Imagine a telescope so smart that it aligns itself to the night sky and automatically locates thousands of celestial objects with just a tap of your mobile device. It might sound like something out of The Jetsons, but this new WiFi-enabled stargazing experience could be yours—with your existing Celestron computerized telescope!

In a breakthrough for 2016—hailed the Innovation of the Year by our TelescopesPlus.com team—Celestron has brought together two of its most exciting technologies: StarSense AutoAlign and the SkyPortal WiFi Module. Now, you can switch on your telescope, give it about 3 minutes to align itself to the night sky, and begin an hours-long stargazing marathon, all from your mobile device.

 

iPhone Controlled Telescopes

We do everything on our iPhones and Android devices these days, so why not bring your smartphone out with you under the stars? For as long as there have been gyroscopes built into our devices, app developers have created star chart apps and star map apps for them. The concept is simple: hold your phone or tablet up to the night sky and identify any star, planet, or other bright object. Even the best astronomy apps usually end there. But now, Celestron SkyPortal takes the experience one step further by connecting your phone with your telescope.

To get started, plug the SkyPortal WiFi Module into one AUX port and the StarSense AutoAlign into the other. Switch the telescope on. On your mobile device, search for the WiFi signal coming from the telescope and connect to it. (Up to 3 mobile devices can connect to one telescope so you can take turns guiding the star party!)

Next, launch the SkyPortal app on your device and choose Connect and Align. This is where StarSense AutoAlign takes over. You’ll see the telescope move across the night sky scanning for star patterns with its built-in camera. In about 3 minutes, the telescope has enough information to calculate its own position and the location of every celestial object overhead.

 

Telescope App for iPhone and Android

Once the telescope is aligned, your phone or tablet becomes your interactive telescope remote control. When you hold up your device, you’ll see a projected overlay of the night sky with the names of celestial objects and constellations. Tap on the object you wish to view and select “GoTo.” Your telescope will zip over to the object and center it for you in the eyepiece. If you’re viewing with a large group, there’s no need to worry about recentering the object thanks to your telescope’s automatic tracking. In fact, you could leave the telescope centered on the same object for hours if you have a long line of observers waiting to take a look!

While you’re enjoying the view, you can also scan through SkyPortal’s robust digital content for the object. You can view astroimages, listen to audio descriptions, or read stats like the object’s distance from Earth. And there’s no need to worry about spoiling your night vision by staring a blinding smartphone screen. SkyPortal includes a night vision mode that tones down the display and adds a red filter for comfortable viewing.

 

Compatibility List

The SkyPortal stargazing app and StarSense AutoAlign are compatible with the following Celestron computerized telescopes:

  • Advanced VX
  • CG-5 (requires an additional cable)
  • CGE Pro
  • CGEM
  • CGEM DX
  • CPC
  • LCM
  • NexStar SLT
  • NexStar SE
  • NexStar Evolution (built-in WiFi connection, does not require SkyPortal WiFi Module)
  • SkyProdigy (built-in automatic alignment, does not require StarSense AutoAlign)

Ask The Experts

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