If you’re pondering the stars in Norfolk’s big skies, guess what - there’s even an app for that these days

Blast me, Canis Major's bright tonight. And there's Orion right next to it – marching over the horizon like Grant Holt running into the penalty box.

I used to know the names of one or two of them, the usual cub scout stuff. But all the other countless pin pricks of light that fill the big skies over Norfolk were, well, just stars until a few days back.

Technology changed all that, in the form of an app that tells you their names. Some aren't even stars at all, you know – they're planets, according to my mobile phone (scroll down for distance from Earth), constellations or even galaxies.

Taurus lurks amid the early night skies. That's just to the left of AlphaK-Wotsit19, by the way, if you haven't downloaded the app.

And if you haven't guessed by now, I've become a confirmed stargazer thanks to some amazing bit of technology that probably needed a brain the size of Saturn to write.


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Many folk of what I'll call a certain age may long for the pre-internet era and bemoan the 21st century and its geekish zeitgeist.

But dip your toe into the brave new world and something else clicks from time to time. You find out more not just about other worlds or even the world around you– but about yourself, or even all of ourselves.

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Our distant ancestors probably marvelled at the stars when the first men and women pitched up somewhere near Cromer.

They looked up when they'd finished munching on their mammoth and saw the same array of constellations that enchant app fiends today.

We're like the proverbial lovers torn apart, them and us – separated by a few millennia, who wish for togetherness on the same moon.

Picture that, the next time you look up to the heavens at night, with yoiur mobile in your hand.

For all the years between us and all we've learned in them, we still share their thirst for knowledge of other worlds.

They might even have given the stars names too, for all we know. Their vocabulary wasn't up to much, mind you. So like most things, they were probably called Ug.

But even so, their celestial twinklings herald changes in the onward march of the seasons and the cycles of birth and death that marked life's landmarks in ancient times.

Fast forward a few thousand years and the monks of King's Lynn built a tower to get a closer look that still stands today.

By the time Nicholas of Lynn rocked up, in the 14th century, the stars were proving useful when it came to navigation.

Some even reckon he might even have discovered America before Columbus. If that's true, a Norfolk man found a new world centuries before George Vancouver set sail, found Canada and got half of it named after him.

The stars were the key to a new age of exploration long before GPS and SatNavs - let alone Hawkwind albums and Star Trek. To boldly go where no man has gone before, turn left at the asteroid and you have reached your destination. You have arrived at strange new world.

I wonder what they'd make of me, standing in the back garden, tapping my screen to ponder the wonders that peep down on a clear night.

They couldn't scroll to the iPod app and stick their headphones in their ears if it clouded over, as this was clearly yonks before even Led Zeppelin were invented.

Big sky stargazers might be forgiven for wondering what we've learned since in terms of what we know about ourselves that the ancients didn't – besides their lack of the fourth Led Zep album with the four symbols on the front.

We certainly know no more about whatever passes for day-to-day reality on the likes of Canis Major than they did – whatever they called it.

Is someone looking at their app up there, light years away? Are they worrying about their fuel bills or whether the coalition's going to fix the inter-stellar economy?

Sometimes technology throws a curve ball, like Nick Clegg becoming deputy PM. Sometimes it makes you realise just how small we really are.

We now have technology at our fingertips we can point at the night sky for all the latest on its wonders delivered straight to our screens.

But it doesn't tell us who we are and where we fit in when it comes to the the bigger scheme of things. No matter how adept you get at these things, how smart your smart phone is or how up to date your apps are ('click here for update, please re-enter your iTunes password'), it probably never will.

So have we reached a point where technology really does liberate our minds – beyond being able to tweet, pay our bills online, order a pizza or update our status on Facebook? (Chris is stargazing. May be AFK a while.) Or have we hit the buffers? Are we nearing the end of the line when it comes to how much more it can ever truly enrich our lives?

When you gaze at the stars, you're looking back zillions of years before anyone even thought of Facebook. We're still just a pimple – putting it politely – on the face of this pinprick of light in the cosmos we've comprehensively deflowered and be-smirched with everything from wars and climate change, to reality TV and microwave ready meals.

We'll all be dust by the time aliens from Canis Major start following us on Twitter. Or wonder who's going to get kicked out of the Celebrity Big Brother house, or even score the first goal when Norwich run out against the first inhabited planet where they understand the off-side rule.

It's testament to the lads, who've earned the right to play in the Inter-Galactic Premier League, as Paul Lambert's interstellar successor might tell the Pink'Un.

Listen, their lads have eight legs and they breathe liquid nitrogen, so we know they're a tough lot to beat but we're not over-awed by anyone.

Maybe not. But maybe that's why I love technology so much these days, in a strange kind of way.

Because the bigger and better it gets, the more it seems to highlight just how small we really are and just how little we're ever going to really know.

Perhaps we've already hit our limit. Perhaps we're maxed out on megabytes when it comes to what more it can teach us about ourselves.

Perhaps that's one to ponder, next time you tap your app and it tells you the twinkle up above is Canis Major. That's up there somewhere, same as it was light years ago – just to the left of Orion.

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