Look to the stars with Stellarium for the BlackBerry PlayBook

By Zach Gilbert on 27 May 2012 03:24 pm EDT

One of my favorite pastimes is being outside walking at night and looking into the stars. One issue was I had no way to tell what star was what and where various planets were. Of course there were a few I could find, like Orion's Belt or The Milky Way. But what about those more obscure ones, how could I detect which is which? With the BlackBerry PlayBook and Stellarium there is now a way. Stellarium for the PlayBook is actually really cool; it uses the GPS and the on-board compass to pinpoint not only your location, but also where you’re looking. It also features over 2 million stars, a realistic Milky Way and more.

Main features
  • Realistic rendering of more than 2 million stars, planets and their satellites
  • GPS and magnetometer (compass) support for automatic location detection and point-and-view functionality
  • Asterisms and illustrations of the constellations
  • Realistic Milky Way and images of nebulae including full Messier catalogue
  • Azimuthal and equatorial grids
  • Celestial object search, powerful zoom
  • Configurable location, landscape, projections...

One of the cool things about the application is that the developer has built it in a way that allows you to change things in the environment and add things like fog or even go to various locations around the globe. If virtually traveling around the globe isn’t for you, don’t worry because you can stay right at home and look up to the stars in your own backyard. I was somewhat disappointed that the developer of Stellarium didn't include any manuals. With an application this complex, navigating such a large number of options and settings proves a daunting task. So one note to the developer would be to provide a help section on what does what in a future update.

If you’re an avid stargazer or are just curious about what you’re looking at in the night sky, you will want to download Stellarium for the BlackBerry PlayBook. Stellarium can be found in BlackBerry App World for 1.99. 

Purchase Stellarium for the BlackBerry PlayBook

Reader comments

Look to the stars with Stellarium for the BlackBerry PlayBook


I love this app. The compass in the PlayBook is really good. No annoying calibration needed. Just fire up the app, start pointing to different directions and it will work. I hope RIM will put this kind of awesome compass in the BB10 devices. I love my 9810 but the compass in that thing is a POS. AR apps like Wikitude are awesome too but useless (and very annoying) without a reliable compass.

Thanks for the comment. I am looking to buy this off the positive review and comments.

I am curious as to your comment about the 9810 as I also own that device. What does POS.AR mean? I feel like a 44 year old noob sometimes trying to keep up with the lexicon/leet/acronyms/etc.


What's Up is a great app and was released quite some time ago and still receives updates.. The dev has been supporting the playbook for a quite some time.

Not a lot of others devs can say that.

@anastasiophan: I agree with adrenaline_x; let's give these developers more positive feedback and motivation. Sometimes one extremely negative comment can be quite demoralizing, given the pains and frustrations of doing development.

What's Up is a wonderful application and I look forward to more updates.

Looking forward to trying the app under review as well.

Clearly, the reviewer in the video did not bother to take the Playbook out at night and check if the gyroscope feature allows Stellarium for Playbook to actually line up with the night sky. In fact, it does not.

Stellarium comes with Paris, France as the default location. Understandably, the first thing the user needs to do is adjust to their location in order to get an accurate rendering of the night sky. One would think that you could simply click the GPS button and your location would be automatically set. Sorry, doesn't work. I tried entering my town, clicking my location on the map, and even typing in my celestial coordinates, none of which worked. Finally, I was able to click on a nearby town, which should have been close enough, however, the Moon was still off by at least 30 degrees. Additionally, the view in Stellarium keeps jumping around wildly even when the Playbook is held still. This, to me, as an amateur astronomer, is simply unacceptable.

Another criticism is that Stellarium for Playbook seem to offer unnecessary user options. For example, it offers several different modes of view of the night sky, each of which distorts the view in its own way. I couldn't find a view that actually looked like the night sky. Another big problem is that the screen is mostly unresponsive when one needs to enter or change something. You tap on things but nothing happens, which is very frustrating. Equally frustrating is that the virtual keyboard often pops up when not required. An unforgivable omission is the lack of any user manual or help feature, i.e., maybe I'm doing something wrong?

I was really looking forward to an astronomy app that would utilize the gyroscope in the playbook. In other words, the ability to point at an object in the night sky and be able to identify it with an app. Stellarium for Playbook is a big disappointment. It offers a tremendous amount of unnecessary information but misses the basics.

I will continue to use Whats Up, which doesn't utilize the gyroscope connection but, at least, has a better red background night viewing mode than Stellarium.

In any case Stellarium doesn't work under the most recent update to the Playbook (OS 2.1). Screen is unresponsive after the first touch.

Hopefully there's a fix in the works, but one is doubtful about these things.

I wish I read that last review above. I just bought the app an hour ago- the above link still works from the Playbook, took me to the app store, let me pay for it. When I found it doesn't work on updated PB, I went back to app store but it's not shown in a search. I'm going to contact the author, but I probably just wasted $2 for a dead app. So NOTE that even if you find the app through the above link, it doesn't work at all.

Having only recently acquired a Playbook I was eager to see what astronomy apps there were. I have used Stellarium on my laptop and hoped to find it for the BBPB. Having seen the last posting here I realise it's no longer available - which is a shame (it's no longer listed in BB World either). Shame that StarWalk isn't available on BBPB (it's a great app for another type of device).