Curious about the world above and beyond? There’s an app for just about everything, Kirstin Mills writes.

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and debated whether that bright star is Venus or Mercury? Or during the day, have you spotted some jet trails and wondered where a plane is heading? Or have you looked across at a harbour and pondered how big a cruise ship is?

Your answer may well depend on your personality type. But for those of us geekier humans, it is handy to be able to answer such questions – and sure enough there is an app for all three.

SkyView is a fantastic app for stargazers. Once you have downloaded the app to your phone, just point it up at the sky and, using augmented reality, the app will not only name the planets, the moon and man-made objects like satellites, the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, but will also show you the direction they are travelling in.

You can also pick a date and time in future to see what the night sky will look like then. Click for more information on any of the planets or objects and you can read more about them.

If you like going out at night to stargaze or do night photography, you can turn on the app’s red filter to preserve your night vision.

When the stars disappear during the day you can switch to Flightradar24. The global flight tracking service is used commercially, but everyday people can use it to look at the free real-time information on flights.

Flightradar24 started in 2006 as a hobby by two Swedish aviation geeks. It now claims to track more than 180,000 flights from more than 1200 airlines. It is the perfect app to use when you are waiting on a flight to arrive – particularly if the weather looks dodgy and the flight might be delayed, turned around or re-routed.

The app even lets you into a virtual cockpit – but you can only do that a few times before it requires you to pay. If you click on any flight you can find out all the relevant flight details, including schedule and estimate arrival time; altitude and speed; and the arrival terminal and gate number and baggage belt to collect luggage from.

One of the most fascinating things to do with the app is to zoom out so you can see how many aircraft are in the air at any one time – it is mind-blowing.

You can do the same zooming-out trick with the Marine Traffic app to see how many vessels are in the water at any one time. A couple of years ago I moved to a home that overlooks a harbour and became a little curious about the shipping traffic I could see. Enter the Marine Traffic app.

While the company that designed this app provides maritime information for commercial use, the free part of this app is great for anyone wanting to know some basics.

If I see a ship, I open the app and a map shows me the shipping traffic nearby. By clicking on a specific vessel, it brings up information such as where it has come from and where it is heading to, the year it was built, its length, breadth and weight and also displays a photo.

You can also check out how fast it is travelling and the wind direction/speed and temperature at its location. You can also overlay weather conditions. It works not just for harbours and the sea; it also shows river traffic. I have heard that people who are on a cruise use the app to keep any one on nearby cruise ships and other vessels informed.