Partly cloudy skies are terrific for landscape photography and cloudy skies could be great for macro photography so you don’t blow out your subject. Not so for astrophotography where “Clear Skies” is a common salutation between astrophotographers.
Partly cloudy skies could cause you to throw out ½ or more of your images from an all night session. It is possible to shoot around a few clouds in the sky. Just be prepared to put your lens cap on and shoots some dark frames until the clouds roll by.
Nothing is more frustrating than getting your equipment set up, leveled, polar aligned, and focused, and having a bank of clouds roll in. So how do you plan for the weather for an astrophotography session?
Here are 2 great, free apps for astrophotography to help you plan your photography sessions: Clear Outside and Astrospheric.
Clear Outside is a cool little app that has a wealth of information like:
- Latitude and Longitude
- Bortle Class (light pollution scale) for the location
- Sun and moon (rise and set)
- % full moon
- Blue hour indicators and dark sky times
- International Space Station times
- A variety of weather forecast information (rain, fog, humidity, wind)
- Most importantly – a pretty accurate forecast of the cloud cover for the next 7 days
Clear Outside also has color indicators (green, orange, and red) on the hour numbers to give you a quick visual on what hours have the least cloud cover for you to photograph. It also has good visuals for sunrise, sunset, blue hour and dark sky times.
Overall, clear sky is an easy to use application with a lot of information for astrophotographers and photographers as well. I only have one critique of the app. It defaults to Exeter, Devon, UK so if you are not paying attention, you could be looking at the weather in the United Kingdom. However, you just need to click on current location or one of your saved locations to switch.
Astrospheric is another free astrophotography app that has much of the same information as Clear Outside.
Astrospheric does have a nice map feature where you can select to display different information (cloud cover, temperature, jet stream forecast). There are also a few different maps view that I have no idea what to do with like: Aerosol Optical Depth. It does have a map in motion feature for cloud cover that is really nice to see when the clouds clear.
Astrospheric also has some nice graphs for temperature sun/moon rise and set, and precipitation. There are also color indicators on the hours for cloud cover (the darker the better). You can also click on an hour (only for the next 3 days) to get additional information on the forecast.
Which app do I like better? I like them both and they are both free, so get them both. Both Clear Outside and Astrospheric are available for iPhone, iPad and Android.
Written by Martin Belan