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4/18/2011

Astronomy Apps for the iPad/iPhone/iTouch Part 2

iPad/iPhone/iTouch Astronomy Apps Review 2

Well, the moon is too full and the weather stays horrible so even if I wanted to do some double star observing that is ruled out. So, I am going to post up on some more astronomy apps that I got for my iPad. The good news is you won't have to worry about reading another entry until sometime after Wednesday, the 20th, which is my 46th birthday. Is there a way to stop them from coming? I've had enough and my body has decided it has had enough birthdays. Anyway, here we go. Remember you can click on an image to see it larger.

1. Exoplanet is free, and comes with ads which of course you can purchase and get rid of the ads. This wonderful program is a "daily updated database of all discovered extrasolar planets. It has been developed and is maintained by a professional astronomer."
+Some of the features according to the add in the app store are:
+Database with physical parameters of every known explanet.Interactive visualizations and animations
+Interactive 3D plot show the position of all exoplanets in our Milky Way. You can zoom into any planetary system.
+Push notifications are sent out anytime a new planet is discovered.
+Extensive background information on exoplanets and detection methods
+Direct links to over 50,000 scientific publications.

Here is the main screen:






















When you go into the Database you'll see this screen and it will have the current discovered exoplanets and then the new ones. Inside the tab for the planet is its size, location via a star chart, the method of detection and where it lays in orbit around its parent star (tells you the type of star also) while also showing the Goldilocks zone for that system and the orbits of the planets in our solar system as a comparison.






















Here is a sample of a system showing the discovered planet compared to planets in our solar system and a visual of the detection method used.


























This is the screen showing the Milky Way and the areas that exoplanets are being found and their distance from Sol/our Sun.





















Now to make this more official I am going to use a template to help us know how good this app is. Here we go:

1. Usefulness for Star Gazing (1-5 with 5 being the highest): 1
2. Ability to provide new information to a amateur astronomer to help in planning an observing session: 2
3. Usefulness for the amateur to gain new understanding and knowledge of Astronomy: 5
4. Layout, design and professionalism of the app:
5. Available for iPad, iPhone, ITouch.

This app will not help you in planning a session or in help in terms of star gazing. While, unless you can visually go after the star where these exoplanets are in orbit. That could be a fun task but you would have to determine which, if any are visually observable. It does though provide an avenue for the amateur to really begin to understand the hows of finding expolanets, though at a basic level if you stay with just the initial program. IF the amateur opens up the the links in the tab called Exoplanet News you can be taken to articles that discuss the findings listed. Also there I just learned that there is a new app called Kepler that contains all the data that NASA released from Kepler for $2.99. Looks very similar to this program. All in all I rate this as a 5/5 stars and recommend it highly to both amateur astronomers and to people in general who have an interest in this sort of thing.


2. Planets. The next app is called Planets. This is a free app again that offers a view of the night sky in 2D, 3D and in a chart that shows Visibility for that day. It has Sky 3D which allows virtual reality using compass and gyroscope. It also has a Globe feature that allows for a rotating 3D globe of the planets and the moon.


Here is the 2D version:























Now the 3D version:























Finally, the Visibility Table:


























1. Usefulness for Star Gazing (1-5 with 5 being the highest): 3
2. Ability to provide new information to a amateur astronomer to help in planning an observing session: 2
3. Usefulness for the amateur to gain new understanding and knowledge of Astronomy: 2
4. Layout, design and professionalism of the app: 4.5
5. Available for iPad, iPhone, iTouch.

Overall this is a good app for using to visually determine what planets you may want to go after that night. In the capture above you can see that you could get a two for one IF you had a lunar filter (too big for me though) and see Saturn and the Moon close by each other at that time. Easy to use in the field the compass feature helps you to align the app with the sky so you can determine basically where the planet is. I like the color on the visibility chart and find it attractive and helpful in terms of planning a planetary observing session. Again, Saturn is up for most of the night, while Jupiter and Mercury are just under the Sun at twlight, and up to close to the Sun in the morning. Actually, Venus rises around 5:40a.m. (gives you an hour to view it through thick atmosphere) and Mercury rises at 6:12a.m. (1/2 hour before the Sun rises) and Mars rises at 6:13a.m. Again, all but Venus I'd probably pass on and just focus on Saturn during this time of the year.

So in rating this I would give it a 3.5/4 in usefulness, maybe a 4 if your really into planetary observing. Though the information is available elsewhere, it is nice to have it in one place on your iPad or iPhone/iTouch. A very good item for a beginner or if a veteran wants this information in one place on their electronic device.

3. Messier List by Scott Spencer

This is an free app designed for someone who is going to pursue viewing/observing the Messier list of 110 objects put together by French astronomer and comet hunter, Charles Messier in the late 1700's (18th century). The app "contains of all of the objects (galaxies, planetary nebula, globular clusters, open star cluster, nebula and other items known as Deep Sky Objects), fun facts about them, their positions in the sky, photos when available and if you can currently see the object. It has a checklist also for amateur astronomers to check off when they have observed one."

So here is what it looks like beginning with the opening page.

























The list of objects. A dark gray or light gray means the object is below the horizon and is currently not visible from your location. A light blue or dark blue will mean that object is visible. So it does help you to quickly see which objects you might want to observe. What would be nice here (if possible) is if you could sort the Messier Objects by constellation so someone observing them could stay in one part of the sky. That for me, is the easiest way to work the Messier (and many objects/lists).



























I choose to use Messier 51 or M51 as the test object here. This page gives you the type of object, the constellation, the RA and DEC, the magnitude, how far away it is and if it is up right now. I can see this being beneficial especially at a Public Star Party where this type of information is very helpful to have in a quick and tidy location.

























This is the description, and the app does a really good job of providing some very useful information in a concise manner. I actually really like this feature a lot and again, I can see myself using it at a Public Star Party, or after observing an old friend. Beats pulling out The Messier Objects by Stephen James O'Meara into the field (yes, I do highly recommend that and any of his books and yes, you should read them after observing the objects).

























Here is the photo and this is where I think the program really doesn't do an amateur or the public justice. This is NOT (I know most of you know this already) the image someone new to the hobby or a member of the public will see through the eyepiece at a telescope. It would have been better to use at least a black and white photo or to get permission of a really good sketcher and put that image in there. That way the image is closer to what they'll see in the eyepiece. Just my opinion. Some will love having the NASA image here. This is the only real criticism of this app that I have, though I will have a suggestion below.

























I really enjoy the fun facts that are included here, though they may repeat some of the information already provided, they are bullets and are quickly and easily accessible if you don't have time to read the entire information sections.

























This is the checklist. It is designed to have you simply tap the screen on the object you observed and a blue circle with a white check mark appears allowing you to know you have observed that item. I don't know if it is worth it, or even if it is possible, but it would be nice to see an arrow where you could fill out the information necessary to qualify for the Astronomical League Award for viewing the Messier Objects. Gives me an idea that I need to make a free app and offer my observing form for download . . . THAT will become my next project!
























Last is a nice biography of Charles Messier that is included in the app. You'll have to get the app to get the rest of it.


























1. Usefulness for Star Gazing (1-5 with 5 being the highest): 4
2. Ability to provide new information to a amateur astronomer to help in planning an observing session: 4
3. Usefulness for the amateur to gain new understanding and knowledge of Astronomy: 5
4. Layout, design and professionalism of the app: 5
5. Available for iPad, iPhone, iTouch.

This is another app if someone is just going through the Messier Objects I would recommend they have on hand and use. It will increase the fun for a beginner, and perhaps remind veterans of the knowledge they have behind this wonderful objects. I also really see a use for it at Public Star Parties as a tool to help those who may feel their knowledge isn't perfect, to have two or three facts quickly available that they can get down while showing one of these objects. It should remove the fear some I know have had of why they don't feel they can attend a Public Outreach, which is lack of knowledge. Great app for observing and well done.

4. Sky & Telescopes Sky Week App



















This is very similar to what Sky&Telescope has on their site and in their magazine. When I got it, it cost 0.99 cents, but it is now a FREE app. Wonderful app that allows you if your in a hurry or if your doing a good long session to have some items to look after. By clicking on the red VIEW button, it brings up a chart of what was discussed. Was it worth the 0.99 cents now that you can get it for free? Sure. I enjoy Sky&Telescope and if I can help them to remain profitable in a time when many print papers and magazines are disappearing, I will. This also has a nightvision button that turns the screen into a bright red if your brightness is set high. Nice feature though.

























1. Usefulness for Star Gazing (1-5 with 5 being the highest): 4
2. Ability to provide new information to a amateur astronomer to help in planning an observing session: 4
3. Usefulness for the amateur to gain new understanding and knowledge of Astronomy: 4
4. Layout, design and professionalism of the app: 5
5. Available for iPad, iPhone, iTouch.

My overall rating for this app is a 5/5. I love the layout and the information as it is laid out in one location for me. Convenience seems to be king in our day and age. I love the connections offered to articles in the current month's issue of Sky&Telescope (in this case on Friday, April 22nd, they connect to Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders column, chart and images on page 58 of April's addition. I'd love to as a paid subscriber to have a link that takes me to an online version that I could have access to. Again, a fun and good app for the current week.


5. Cosmic Discoveries by the American Museum of Natural History

Okay, this will have no benefit for star gazing but this, in my opinion, is a great and fun app and at a great price; it's free! This was put together to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Museum's Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, and "one of the world's most revered science and education institutions."

This takes over 1000 images of everything from the surface of Mercury, to the Horsehead Nebula, to just about all types of objects found in space. The images are then turned into one of the most recognized shapes of an object in our Solar System, Saturn.

You can zoom in on the images, read comments left or leave your own comment for that particular image. There is a tab underneath the images that make up Saturn that let you see the mosaic, or to go to one tab called Stories. These stories range from planetary nebula, to globular clusters, to massive stars, to novae to pulsars and the various types of galaxies. More stories come out as you work through the mosaic. This is an app for a rainy and cloudy night, when you can't go out or if your waiting in the doctor or dentists office or just have time to cool.

























Up close
























1. Usefulness for Star Gazing (1-5 with 5 being the highest): 3
2. Ability to provide new information to a amateur astronomer to help in planning an observing session: 3
3. Usefulness for the amateur to gain new understanding and knowledge of Astronomy: 5
4. Layout, design and professionalism of the app: 5
5. Available for iPad, iPhone, iTouch.


I rated the first two as a 3 after almost giving the app a N/A. I rated it a 3 because it could give someone some new objects to try to go after visually or photographically. Overall on this app, I give it a 4/5. The information may not blow your socks off (it was made for the public) but it is still cool and I love the layout.


5. AstroPlanner App

I actually have 6 more apps to review, but I am only going to do two more, and save the other four for another review down the road.

Here is the app. It is free and with that free you can load 5 objects into the system. Seems to be very similar to the AstroPlanner online but now on your device.

You can filter objects by their catalog, visibility or keyword. You can create a customized observing list in the program. As most programs do, it has a night mode. The program allows the user to set the date and time our want for your calculations (for planning) and the program will calculate the rise, transit, set and maximum altitude of the object on a selected date. That is powerful. The program also shows the best time of the year to see the object you want to go after. In terms of the moon it is has a moon age calculation and a moon altitude chart. Here is the layout. In the free version you can only enter 5 items though. In the pay version for $9.99 it is unlimited.

























As I stated, the app costs $9.99. Is it worth it? I guess I have to decide do I want it on my laptop or do I want it on my iPad? Overall, I enjoy the program and what it can do.
































1. Usefulness for Star Gazing (1-5 with 5 being the highest): 5
2. Ability to provide new information to a amateur astronomer to help in planning an observing session: 5
3. Usefulness for the amateur to gain new understanding and knowledge of Astronomy: 4
4. Layout, design and professionalism of the app: 4
5. Available for iPad, iPhone, iTouch.

This is a busy app and I am not sure how well it is going to compare to the computer program version. It is promising and I can see it being use in the field on an iPad but not on the iPhone or iTouch (he does offer it for the iPhone, but I don't think I would get it). Overall rating 4.5/5 and that may be updated for further use. Perhaps one of the best apps for amateurs that are serious in wanting to use an iPad in the field.


6. iPushTo

This is a simple app that allows you to pick a Messier object and using the iPad to use it as a setting circle to get to where the object is. I guess if you know the ALT: and AZ: of a NGC object you could use it that way also. It works by using the compass feature and you move the pad in the directions the arrow points until you get the target screen. When both ALT and AZ are in target, the object is in that general direction and scanning in a spiral pattern should pick it up. Or follow the directions below and see if it works!




































Here is both ALT and AZ in target so the object should be in that line of sight.

































I haven't tried this in the field since I have found it so I am not going to rate it at this time. These are the directions for using it though at the app in the App Store.

1. Level the telescope horizontally.
2. Be sure to calibrate your built in compass first. Otherwise the reading is not accurate.
3. Select a Messier Object from the list in the search tab.
4. Place your iPhone/iPad flat on the back of your telescope
5. Move the telescope until the telescope ALT/AZ coordinates match the Object ALT/AZ coordinates
6. The object will appear in the finder and/or low power eyepiece.

I'll try it out on my ten inch dob if I get a chance this week and see what happens. Should be interesting!

So that's all for this review period. Hope someone finds these useful.

3 comments:

  1. Your this blog is really very intersting and really like it and get some best android apps ideas thanks for sharing this unique data

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  2. Jay - Thanks for this posting. I have most of these apps on my iPad but did find a couple of new ones from your blog. In addition to the ones you reviewed, I also have Hubble Top 100, ESO Top 10, Moon Globe and Mars Globe (all free; Mars Globe and Moon Globe also available in HD for $.99) in addition to SkySafari which I purchased.

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  3. Just found your blog. This is great!

    ReplyDelete