FUnctionality Sharing In Open eNvironments
Heinz Nixdorf Chair for Distributed Information Systems

Stars above Horizon (Exploratory Cellphone App for Citizen Science Project)


The task is simply summarized:

Develope a cellphone app that displays a star chart. The user shall touch on a star when (s)he sees the star. In the very moment, (i) the time is saved, (ii) the geo. position of the observer and the (iii) and an identifier of the star (number in star catalogue). The user shall have the option to provid information on the quality of her/his eyes and whether or not (s)he is a trained observer. The app shall also query data from the closest weather station.


  • willing to learn
  • there is an extant app that should be developed further

Use cases:

  1. Observations in twilight and close to the horizon will improve the computations in history of science and archaeology.
  2. “green research”: if many people all over the world use the app, the obtained data shall allow conclusions on the climatic change and weather-related variability of the transparency of the atmosphere, e.g.:
    1. during covid-lockdown in 2020, the news reported that the Himalaya mountains have been visible again in India (which had not been the case since decades before)
    2. there had been military studies in the 1940s (with rather small test samples) that showed some effects of humidity on twilight visibility – but astronomy requires broader and more detailled knowledge. A call for participation of hobby astronomers from Vienna in the 1980s suffered from low response. Modern media and cellphones could serve very well to overcome those day’s constrains and make it easier for people to participate.
  3. “medical/ biological research: ophtalmology knows that there are differences between the eyes of humans from Asia and Europe (because on different pressure on the eye ball) but apart from myoptic epidemic in China and Japan it is poorly known how these biological differences effect vision – in particular night vision.

There is already an alpha version of such a smartphone app with a big documentation (developed some years ago by a very industrious student); it served for feasibility studies.


Additionally, there is a new version in AppStore and PlayStore. This one should now be improved.

A master thesis should

  • develop the extant app
  • add a few more functions as described
  • possibly (if time allows that) even develope a first analysis tool to display some results for the user (gamification)

Start: October 2021, Susanne M Hoffmann + NN