11 January 2010

Review of iPhone astronomy apps: iSolarScape and Planets

My admiration for the iPhone grows as I add more astronomy apps to it. Continuing from my last review of iPhone apps here on the Urban Astronomer blog, I review two more apps that I enjoy using.

iSolarScape: This is an impressive app for $0.99. It provides a broad range of information for the star gazer, from fun facts and figures about the Solar System, to up-to-date information about sunrise, sunset, Moon phase, the location of Jupiter's Galilean Satellites, and more. iSolarScape is the first app I reach for when I want the basics before an evening of stargazing.

The core views of the app are: Sun, Moon, Planets, Asteroids and Zodiac. I use the Sun and Planets selections the most, because they offer me important timing information and wonderful facts and figures about the objects in the Solar System. When I am conducting a star party, iSolarScape has answers to the typical questions (and also the fun and unusual questions) being asked: how far away is a planet, how hot (or cold) is it on the Moon, how many moons does Saturn have, and so on. I marvel at the range of information and ephemeris data I can find throughout the app.

For a great visual tour visit the iSolarScape website.

Planets: This fine app provides a wealth of information and given that the price is free, just load it up and enjoy! A recent upgrade added the "Sky 3D" view, an excellent map of the constellations of the night sky, something that is easy to use and yet quite complete, especially for an Urban Astronomer like me that can only see the brightest stars in constellations most nights. Another view is "Visibility," a planet-by-planet display of when a particular planet is visible in the sky (with back-side data and fun-facts about each object in the Solar System). The "Globe" view is a very cool 3D display of each planet in the Solar System and of course a beautiful Earth map that can be spun around and tilted in any direction allowing you to see the lit side or night side of the Earth.

The publisher of Planets, Dana Peters of QContinuum Software, has a very simple website. For much more vivid illustrations of the Planets app visit the iTunes Store.

I'll have more iPhone asrronomy app reviews in the coming months. Happy viewing!

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