Tag Archives: Nick Risinger

Sky Guide developers win Apple Design Award

A pair of Seattle-area software developers are getting some much-deserved recognition for their astronomy app. Chris Laurel and Nick Risinger, founders of Fifth Star Labs, recently received a 2014 Apple Design Award for their gorgeous iOS app Sky Guide.

Laurel and Risinger

Chris Laurel, left, and Nick Risinger, founders of Fifth Star Labs and designers of Sky Guide, an astronomy app that has received a 2014 Apple Design Award.

Laurel is a software developer whose titles include Celestia, an open-source application for astronomical visualization. He has consulted with NASA and the European Space Agency. Risinger is a renowned astrophotographer and designer perhaps best known for his panoramic photo survey of the Milky Way that consists of more than 37,000 individual images. Laurel tells Seattle Astronomy that the idea for Sky Guide germinated as a way to allow people to view Risinger’s imagery.

The first version of Sky Guide came out a little over a year ago, in May 2013, and Laurel says they’ve had the good fortune to be selling well right from the start.

“We have a good app, but it also takes some luck to get the exposure that you need to sell enough to keep yourself employed,” he says. A lot of the luck came in the form of support from Apple, which featured Sky Guide on the app store not long after it launched.

Sky Guide

A screen shot from Sky Guide.

“If you make something that the platform owners like, then they want to feature you because it shows off their devices and software,” Laurel notes of the support from Apple. Soon Sky Guide was featured as the Starbucks app of the week.

“That’s a free download; we don’t get money, but it gets you a lot of people looking at the app,” Laurel says, and that created some buzz. “Once you get enough users using it, then they tell their friends, so you have this sort of organic thing going.”

Laurel says the Apple Design Award came as something of a surprise, but says they’re deeply honored by the recognition from the company. Reviews have been great; Sky Guide was featured as one of the hot products for 2014 in the January issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Laurel, who is vice president for activities for the Seattle Astronomical Society, says he and Risinger are gratified at the interest the amateur astronomy community has shown in Sky Guide, but notes that this wasn’t their target customer group.

“We were going for a broader audience,” he says, explaining that Sky Guide doesn’t have features such as telescope controls that are offered by other astronomy apps. “We’re going for an audience of anyone who might look up in the night sky and say, ‘What’s that star?'”

We love Sky Guide for its gorgeous look and for its great depth. In addition to Risinger’s superb photography, the app features music and sounds by Mat Jarvis and a wealth of information about bright stars (by James B. Kaler) and about constellation mythology (by Ian Ridpath.) A cool filter feature lets the user see objects as they would appear in various wavelengths, including microwave, infrared, h-alpha, and x-ray.

The Apple Design Award is well-deserved! Sky Guide is available for iPhone and iPad for $1.99. Check it out!


Risinger of Photopic Sky Survey to speak at SAS

Nick Risinger

Nick Risinger sets up his camera gear for a night of shooting in Colorado. Risinger made more than 37,000 exposures to create a 5,000 megapixel image of the entire night sky. Photo: Nick Risinger.

Nick Risinger, Seattle resident who created the amazing 5,000 megapixel photo of the entire night sky, will be the guest speaker at tonight’s meeting of the Seattle Astronomical Society. Risinger traveled 45,000 miles by air and 15,000 by land collecting the more than 37,000 individual images he stitched together to make the photo. He will talk about the experience and show some of his images. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 in room A-102 of the Physics/Astronomy building on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Visit Risinger’s website at http://www.skysurvey.org/.

Equinox sunset watch set for Friday
The fall equinox happens at just after two o’clock Friday morning Seattle time. Friday evening, Sept. 23, Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info will hold what has become a customary watch to observe the first sunset of the season. The Sun will set a bit before 7 p.m. Friday, so Enevoldsen and skywatchers will gather at Solstice Park in West  Seattle around 6:30 to wait for the first sunset of autumn. (Official sunset is at 7:05 p.m. that day, but Enevoldsen has tweaked the time a bit based on local topography and conditions. She can do that, because she’s not only the author of Alice’s Astro Info, but the planetarium guru at the Pacific Science Center and a NASA Solar System Ambassador.)

PACSCI reopens
Speaking of the Science Center, all exhibits re-open Saturday, Sept. 24 after the Center’s annual two-week closure for maintenance and installation of new exhibits. It’s not astronomy related, but the new Groovik’s Cube, part of Puzzle Palooza, looks like a lot of fun.

BPAA examines “A Star’s Life”
The Battle Point Astronomical Association hosts its monthly planetarium show Saturday, Sept. 24 beginning at 7:30 p.m. The topic of the presentation will be the life cycles of stars, from nebula to white dwarf or black hole. The program will be at the association’s John H. Rudolph Planetarium and Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. If it’s a clear night, club members will have telescopes on hand for observing, and the skies are decently dark at the site.

Comets at MOF
The Museum of Flight in Seattle devotes its Family Fun Workshops this weekend to comets and asteroids. Participants can learn about the oldest objects in the solar system, and then make their own model comets! It’s geared for kids K-3, and their parents, and is free with museum admission. Workshops start at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.