If you visit any planetarium, you can expect to find Stellarium in the demonstration room.

So what is Stellarium?

It is a free open source software planetarium, which renders a realistic projection of the night sky in real time.

Stellarium was developed by the French programmer Fabien Chéreau, who launched the project in the summer of 2001. It has since them developed into full fledged desktop/mobile application, which is used in large variety of Astronomy classes/demonstrations.

Interesting thing about Stellarium is – you really see the sky on your mobile what you can see with your eyes, binoculars or a small telescope. It also uses location data of mobile user to render sky at specific location. Sometimes, it is difficult to see the stars in cities due to artificial lights in the night. Stellarium brings night sky on to your mobile.

Here is why I really liked about this app.

  1. They know their stuff. Considering its been used in leading planetariums/astronomy clubs, it has instant validation of content from much larger community.
  2. It is open source with code/documentation on site for everybody to see and participate. Its backed by scientific and programming community which constantly works on improving user experience.
  3. Its available in multiple channels – Desktop/iOS Mac as well as  leading mobile operating systems.
  4. It personalizes the experience as per user’s environment/location. It lets you see the sky as you would see with naked eyes at your location.
  5. It does not require user to know scientific concepts/terminology. So, user can start playing around from day one. It is interesting to see that they have same version for everybody – whether its for an expert in Astronomy or one who is just starting up.
  6. User interface is very intuitive and friendly. It easily adopts to user environment and simulates sky around it.
  7. Finally, it ranks in top three on almost all geographies on AppStore in Education Category, even though its paid version. So, it has universal applicability of App-Solution (similar to ‘WhatsApp’ but on much smaller scale).

Here are the key learnings if you are really ‘App’ based company.

  1. Know your stuff deeply in terms of – what customers want, how they evolving. Find your Niche.
  2. Think about global audience and figure out commonality of requirements. See if you can address them first.
  3. UI – Make it so easy in terms of Navigation so that even 4-year old can work on it.
  4. Personalize/Personalize/Personalize – Mobile is personal (as well as Private) device. See how you can personalize app experience for the user.
  5. Think ‘Open-Source’ even though you do not have to really put your code out there – build communities (developers as well as users) and engage.

If you get that right, customers will be willing to pay for your app. Try it out !