August 3, 2010 | Andy Boxall
With the news that the Sun has sent a blast of plasma towards the Earth hitting the headlines this week, thanks mainly to the prospect of the famed Northern Lights potentially being visible from parts of the UK and North America, we thought it was a good time to highlight the wealth of astronomy-related applications that are available for the iPhone and the iPad.
Here are ten which standout:
You can purchase an iPhone app for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, but we’ve linked to the iPad-specific version, simply because we think it benefits from the increased screen size. The night sky is still rendered on your iPad, with the positions and names of stars and planets, plus outlines of constellations and lunar phase information. It’s easy to use too. $4.99/£2.99.
Well-known and beautifully designed, this is perhaps aimed more at entertaining the casual user than the hardcore enthusiast, but that’s OK, it’s just means it’s slightly more accessible. An iPad version is available alongside the popular iPhone version, which lets you watch the sky pass in real time, aided by your phone’s digital compass, identifying stars and constellations as you go. $2.99/£1.79.
A perfect companion app to Star Walk, this is an interactive learning application based on the planets in our solar system. The 3D view is very impressive, there is a wealth of information in several different languages and a clever ‘Time Machine’ setting that shows how the planets were aligned at a given time. Suitable for the iPhone and the iPad. $2.99/£1.79.
If some of the more expensive astronomy apps seem like overkill when you’re just a keen amateur, give Planets a try. It’s compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad, has a 2D or 3D view of the sky, names of constellations, planets and stars and a database with moonrise times. Free.
One of the best ‘suitable for all’ astronomy applications, which remains accessible for the hobbyist but contains enough information and detail to keep the experienced astronomer happy too. Available for the iPhone and iPad, the app uses the digital compass, GPS or 3G connection to ensure the view on screen is the same view you see from the sky. $9.99/£5.99.
You can select this pay version or a free, cutdown Lite version of iEphemeris, which provides data related to the Sun and the Moon, with everything from sunrise/moonrise times, day length, maximum altitude of the Sun and plenty more. It’s under the photography section, but could equally be used as a handy reference guide for astronomers. $1.99/£1.19.
Available for both the iPhone and the iPad, this is a continually updated database of exo-planets and their stars. It’s compatible with the iPhone 4′s Retina Display, has Push notifications and pictures of the stars taken through telescopes. The app is free but uses iAds. Free.
One for all the budding astronomers perhaps, this application compiles masses of information on everything space related, from the exploration of deep space to the ISS and space tourism. It also provides access to NASA TV and has plenty of live news feeds, videos and audio too. For the price, there is a lot to enjoy and learn from here. $1.99/£1.19.
An award-winning application for the iPhone or the iPad. The latest version includes support for iOS 4 and multi-tasking, plus enhanced graphics for the iPhone 4′s Retina Display. It’s not cheap, but few will disagree that this is nothing less than the definitive ‘planetarium’ app for the serious astronomer, with a database of 300,000 stars, time-lapse viewing and even the opportunity to program your computer-controlled telescope. $14.99/£8.99.
There are several apps for discovering the whereabouts of various satellites, however they tend to focus mainly on the ISS or other popular ones. Satellite Tracker however, covers the ISS but adds everything from Ham Radio satellites, GPS satellites, Search and Rescue satellites and nearly 700 more. $9.99/£5.99.
Do you have a favorite astronomy application? Tell us about it in the comments.