Orbit

The Orbit button lets you leave Earth behind, and orbit the Sun, other Solar System objects, and even nearby stars. Please Note: this feature is only available in SkySafari Plus and Pro! In the basic version of SkySafari for iOS, you can unlock the Orbit feature with a one-time in-app purchase.

Entering Orbit and Returning to Earth

To orbit a solar system object or another star, first select one by tapping on it in the sky chart, or by searching for one with the Search view. Then tap the Orbit button. In a few seconds, you'll fly through millions of miles of space into orbit near the object you selected.

If you select the Sun and then tap the Orbit button, you'll fly to a location 100 Astronomical Units above the Sun, where you can see the entire solar system as a whole. From there, you can select any other solar system object and fly into orbit around it.

When you want to go home to Earth, tap the small Earth icon at the bottom of the sky chart. SkySafari will fly you back to same Earthly location you left earlier.

Navigating in Orbit

When you're orbiting a solar system object or nearby star, that object stays locked at the center of the sky chart. Swiping the chart moves you around the object. Two new buttons at the bottom of the sky chart let you fly toward or away from the object you're orbiting. The status bar above the sky chart indicates your distance from the object.

You can magnify the field of view by pinching and zooming, just as you can when viewing from Earth. Zooming will not move you toward or away from the object you're orbiting; it simply changes the sky chart's field of view. A planet can appear very large in the sky chart because you're far away from it but highly zoomed in, or because you're zoomed out but very close to the planet. Usually the distinction is obvious, but this is one thing to note in case you become confused.

While you're orbiting another star or solar system object, you can center the sky chart on a different object by tapping it and tapping the "Center" button, or by searching for it and tapping the "Center" button in the Object Info window. If you do this, swiping the chart will no longer move you around the object you're orbiting; it will simply pan the field of view. To resume orbiting the object, tap it to select it again, then tap either the "Center" or "Orbit" button.

Using SkySafari in Orbit

When you're orbiting another star or solar system object, certain SkySafari features are not available. For example, you cannot use the compass or gyroscope, and you cannot use any telescope control features. These features are only designed to work when you're observing from the Earth's surface!

SkySafari also adjusts some display settings when you leave Earth and enter "orbit mode". For example, planet and moon orbits are automatically displayed, and constellation lines are hidden. The maximum field of view width is restricted to 90 degrees. SkySafari does these things to provide a clearer display. When you return home to Earth, your previous display settings are restored.

When you're in orbit around another star or solar system object, the Object Info view provides all information about an object as it is seen from your perspective in orbit. For example, it gives the constellation in which the object appears, and the object's visual magnitude and distance, as seen from your simulated location in space - not as seen from Earth.

When you are orbiting another star, SkySafari only displays stars in the Hipparcos catalog, and nearby stars whose distances are well known. SkySafari does not display faint Tycho or Guide Star Catalog stars, because their positions in three-dimensional space are unknown. Therefore their apparent positions when seen from outside our Solar System cannot be accurately depicted.

The Settings > Chart Animations switch controls the animation to and from stars or solar system objects that you wish to orbit. If turned off, you will jump instantly into orbit around objects when tapping the Orbit button instead of experiencing a few seconds of animated "flight".