May 12th, 2009

google-sky-map-iconYesterday we posted an article about Star Droid, an Android application being developed by Google that will allow you to use your Android Phone to identify the stars your looking at in the night (or day) sky. That application has JUST launched but under a different name: Google Sky Map.
Here is Kevin Serafini, software engineer on the Sky Map team, demonstrating the application:

Here are the features listed on the Google Sky Map Website:

Search: Find planets, stars, and constellations guided by your phone.

Motion detection: Sky Map uses your phone’s GPS, accelerometer, and compass to create a window in the sky that moves with your hand.

Celestial objects: Browse a map showing the brightest naked-eye stars, planets, sun and moon, constellation lines, horizon, cardinal points, and Messier Objects.

Navigation: Use automatic mode to let Sky Map adjust the map for you or switch to a manual mode that allows the map to be dragged with a finger.

The description from Android Market:

Google Sky Map: A star map for Android.

Google Sky Map turns your Android-powered mobile phone into a window on the night sky. When you point your phone up you will see a map of the brightest stars, constellations, and planets in that part of the sky.

When/If you install the application and run it… be PATIENT. The application needs to find you GPS location among other things, but in this beta version there is no “loading” screen so your phone will “go black” and seem non-responsive. Pressing buttons will likely entice a Force Close option but if you just wait it out, the Sky Map will appear. And if you want to add the Application to your desktop it will be listed as “Sky Map” not “Google Sky Map” – that might save you some confusion.

My favorite comment so far:

Man the females love this app

When I saw the application on the market it appeared with “Update Available” text next to it which is strange… because this is the first time it appeared on the market. However yesterday, when I posted about “Star Droid”, you may remember that commenters criticized me saying an app like this was already ON the market. So I downloaded that application. It was called Sky Map.

One can only assume that Google purchased “Sky Map” from the original owners, renamed it Google Sky Map and the “Update Available” was actually an update to that original application. That would also explain how there are already between 50k and 250k downloads with almost 5k ratings. We’ll get more info on this to you as it is made available.

So although I promised a comparison between the two applications that now seems unneccessary impossible. Hopefully I’ll have a review of Google Sky Map published tomorrow or Thursday but I can tell you that initially it DOES look pretty darn cool. And yes, Liam – the ladies will certainly dig it.


I just found a bunch of Google Blog posts on the topic with pictures on each:

Sky Map on LatLong Blog
stardroid1 stardroid2

Sky Map on Google Mobile Blog

And also over at the Official Google Blog.

It is also interesting that the two screenshots of the application from the LatLong blog were named StarDroid. It makes you wonder if they were planning to name it StarDroid all along but either had second thoughts at the last moment or were afraid they didn’t do their due diligence in advance since getting slapped with a lawsuit over the Android trademark.


I sent the developers an Email and contrary to the assumptions that caused yesterday’s backlash, Sky Map has ALWAYS been a Google project, developed by Googlers during their 20% time. Now it is being launched as an Official Google application, that’s all. For those that criticized me… I want you to know that both myself AND the Google Sky Map team appreciate that kind of care/concern. Here is a quote directly from one of the team members in an Email to me:

I have to say I’m quite touched that your readers were concerned that we wouldn’t get proper credit – it’s that sort of appreciation that makes us want to work on projects like this.

That’s why Phandroid readers are the best!

Update #3 – From StarDroid to Sky Map

John from the Google Sky Map team fills us in as to the “name change” as discussed above:

Stardroid was the working name for the project when we first started it.  If you look at our code, the java packages are all called

As you can imagine, when you do a project like this you start working on it long before you get to the stage of having a product and needing an official name for it, so we didn’t choose the name Sky Map until quite late on before the first release.   We didn’t use “Stardroid” because it’s not really very descriptive (which is important for mobile apps where you have limited space to describe what it does).   So, there’s no big secret here – “Stardroid” is the old working name we used early in the project, we don’t much use it now.