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Bringing the Stars to You At Home: Washington, Oregon, Coastal Astronomy

Published 04/17/2020 at 6:54 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Bringing the Stars to You At Home: Washington, Oregon, Coastal Astronomy

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(Portland, Oregon) – We’re all stuck at home here in the Pacific Northwest, and we’re all a little stir crazy to some degree. We can’t visit our favorite destination on the Oregon or Washington coast, or even the little pick-me-up state parks near our home towns in places like Yakima, Portland, Port Orford, Raymond, Cannon Beach, Eugene, Seattle or Ashland. (Above: star fall in Portland).

You can, however, look up from your home in the nighttime hours and augment your astronomy reality. OMSI’s Jim Todd has a number of suggestions.

“Can even share the views and current news with others,” Todd said.

There are a number of mobile star maps, astronomy aids and other types of apps that bring the wonder of the stars down to Earth. The best of them transform your smartphone into a viewfinder of an incredible new reality, with navigation aids and even your own portable planetarium. These work whatever the weather – cloudy or clear. Some track the ISS overhead or in the near future. With a few swipes of your finger, these apps can help you identify objects; take you on a tour of the night sky.

These sky-charting apps work because your device accurately knows the date and time as well as your location, via GPS or other means, and therefore what’s floating around above you. On top of that, built-in gyroscopes and compasses can give you a virtual map of any part of your sky.

“Add some onboard memory or access to the Internet, and you have an encyclopedia of astronomy data only a tap away,” Todd said.

Here are a few applications available for Androids and IPhone. Please note, some apps are absolutely free, while others may have a fee.

SkyView® Lite (Free): SkyView allows users to point their device to the sky and instantly identify stars, constellations, and satellites.
Star Walk or Star Walk 2 - Sky Map, Stars & Constellations (Free): The app Star Walk does not only have a beautiful interface, but is extremely user friendly.
SkySafari - Astronomy App (Free): SkySafari is a powerful planetarium that fits in your pocket, puts the universe at your fingertips, and is incredibly easy to use!
Google Sky Map (Free): Sky Map is a hand-held planetarium for your Android device. Use it to identify stars, planets, nebulae and more.
Stellarium Mobile ($): is a planetarium app that shows exactly what you see when you look up at the stars.

Todd provided some other intriguing suggestions:

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. Available either as download or as Web Version.

“Highly recommended,” he said. is an online guide to what you can see in the night sky, which automatically tailors its information to wherever you happen to live. To help find your way around the night sky, makes available for free* each month The Evening Sky Map -- a 2-page monthly guide to the night skies of the world -- northern and southern hemispheres, and the equatorial regions. Each issue contains a detailed sky map, a monthly sky calendar, and a descriptive list of the best objects to see with binoculars, a telescope, or using just your eyes.

The Evening Sky Map is suitable for all stargazers including newcomers to astronomy. And, unlike other star charts on the Web, The Evening Sky Map will print clearly on any printer. (Read what others are saying about The Evening Sky Map.)

The Spot the Station (NASA). Watch the International Space Station pass overhead from several thousand worldwide locations. It is the third brightest object in the sky and easy to spot if you know when to look up.

Visible to the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher and traveling thousands of miles an hour faster. The Spot the Station tool also allows users to sign up to receive an email or text message notifying them the station will soon be visible in their selected area.

NASA at Home. NASA heard the public’s requests for more things to do with #NASAatHome. They asked for activities for students, do-it-yourself projects, virtual tours of the solar system and more amazing space images. Now they’re all in one place.

More night photos of the region below. Oregon Coast Hotels for the future - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

Three planets above Manzanita

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