iPad/iTouch Free Astronomy Apps 3a

Well, the other two posts on this topic have been popular so I thought I would do one more after scanning the app store and finding some more free products that are available. Seems astronomy keeps growing. There are also plenty of 0.99 apps but I have not purchased those yet and will be a little more selective since I'm spending money to do that.

1. AstroCalc is a free program that will take your telescope and your eyepieces and let you see your true field of view, magnification etc. for that eyepiece. I am assuming that because the program locks up when you add a telescope or an eyepiece and you have to allow it to reset which is done when the iPad is off. Thus this is not a practical tool to use which is unfortunate because it would be nice to have such a tool on the iPad for when you want to consider a purchase or borrow an eyepiece. Here is what the program looks like:

Sorry, it was stuck there and I was not able to get any further shots of the main screen or of the telescope portion etc.

Update: Once I got all the data entered for my scopes and my eyepieces, the program actually gives you a data summary of the eyepiece on that scope, basically the data you entered in already, the magnification and Exit Pupil info, the Telescope and your eyes allows you to enter your age and then provides pupil diameter and how much of your scopes aperture is equivalent to one's eyes and what the gain in magnitudes is. The Magnitude and Resolution gives you a theoretical limiting magnitude for your scope, a brightness factor, a resolving power of ____ per seconds of arc and then the smallest features you could theoretically see on the moon would be about ____ miles across (0.78 for my XX14i). Finally under other it gives you an optimum magnification range and what the corresponds to in terms of what in an eyepiece (say 18.5mm to 9.3mm). Provides the lowest magnification the scope should theoretically go to, and the minimum airy disk diameter in arc seconds and the image scale at prime focus per arc minutes per mm.

All in all, once you get through it, a nice piece of information to have on hand I guess. Total stars, 3/5.

2. Sky Almanac
This is a fun program, though not a necessity if you have other planetarium programs like StarmapPro or Star Walk etc. as they have the information in their programs as well. Be aware that all times provided in this program are UT time so be ready to add the hours based on your +/- to UT time. Here is the opening screen or what they call time in the program:

As you can see it will show the system time and Julian date, your GMST time and your Fixed Observer time.

Next come the Today tab which shows the following screen:

It will show you when the Sun is at Civil Dusk, Nautical Dusk, Astronomical Dusk, when the moon sets or rises, when the moon will transit, when the Sun sets, etc. etc. Nice to have all that information in once place and it is the first program I've seen that actually does this.

The Solar tab is next and here is that screen:

It shows you the Topcentric Position in Azimuth and Altitude. The Geocentric Position using R.A. and Dec. Finally here you can see the time the sun will rise and its azimuth, the time the Sun transits with time and altitude; finally the time the Sun sets with time and azimuth. On the bottom you can see when the Spring Equinox is next by date and time, in 2012 since it has occurred for 2011; the Summer Solstice (same) and when the Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice will occur this year in 2011 by date and time.

The next object is the Lunar tab and here is that image:

You can see that this image provides the current phase the moon is in, what percent it is illuminated, the Moon Age for this cycle, its topocentric position and geocentric position. Next the Rise, Transit and Set time are given and finally when the moon will be in the stages of full, first quarter, last quarter and new by date and time.

The last tab is the More tab and here it is:

By clicking on the planet you can get its mass, its orbital period, mean radius, topocentric position, geocentric position and its rise, transit and set times.

What is lacking in this program is a red screen, no option is given to allow this. Also, the app seems to run off of GMST but the times I get in this program are really funky/weird and I cannot figure out how the time in the program is working, unless it is based off of Zurich time which the creator was at when he made the app. If you gain insight please post here on this program. In the end, a fun app for an amateur but unless you get the time figured out, I'm not sure if it is useful. Total stars on this is 2/5 (would be higher but the time issue).

3. Galaxy Collider Lite

I love observing merging galaxies. You can say that they and supernova fascinate me, a lot! When I have free time to read, I read any professional article I can on both topics. Having said that, let me say this app has no real purposeful use for the amateur unless they want to just have some fun. I have this version and the HD version (lite for both) to review here and I will state up front I much prefer the HD version. It is a fun, very fun app to model the collisions of galaxies with though.

Here is the opening screen:


Settings (please note you can in the regular lite version only pick up to 2 galaxies. In the regular version in the HD one you can simulate three or more galaxies interacting).

The merger happening on your screen:

I do think this app can be useful in educational settings where you want to teach students or the public on what a merger could be like when two galaxies, say the Andromeda and the Milky Way merge in about 3 to 5 billion years. 2/5 stars.

4. Moon Map

This is a program for those observing the moon and wanting to have a quick guide to what they are seeing. Here is the image:

You can see that the blue line is the terminator, the point where light and dark meet on the face of the moon. The moon is also divided into a North 1 and North 2, a South 1 and South 2, and a West 1, 2, 3 and 4. Also an East 1, 2,3 and 4. You can click in a sector and the follow map will come up:

It shows in color the area of the moon for that portion that you have clicked on. Also based on the type of telescope you have, you can adjust the view to either a mirrored view or a rotate view (rotates the view down becomes up and up becomes down) as seen on this image:

This version which is free, has a Night Vision which turns the screen red and helps to not kill one's night vision. However, when observing the moon, night vision is usually not an issue. Overall not a bad tool to use when observing though I still prefer the app Moon Globe personally. 4/5 stars.

5. Moon Map Lite

This is similar to the last app I posted since it divides the moon into four quadrants on a compass; Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast. Again a blue line shows the terminator.

Where it differs is when you touch on a quadrant it shows that area in black and white, a feature I really like for the moon. Here is the image:

The down side to this is you cannot zoom in on the map and only the features listed are the ones you can identify. So this is not a bad program for a new lunar observer but since the full version is free, go that route. It is the lite version of the one I just reviewed. If you want to choose, take number 4. Moon Map since you get more features and more details. 2/5 stars.

5. VARIABLE STARS (and there is a reason this is in caps).

Best program for an amateur astronomer out of the ones that I found. I recommend downloading this terrific program on variable stars and then going to the About tab in the lower right corner of the app. It will take you to this screen:

From here you can click on the Introduction and the app will bring a treasure of information up for you:

The next part of the About tab is on Types of Variables (it is the icon under introduction) and reveals this page:

This continues as the app introduces the reader to what the database is about, a user manual for the app and resources with links on variable stars. There is an icon for AAVSO and for Diatom Software (they made the app). This is a very in depth app and if you like observing variable stars and recording them, this is a program for you. You can even make a list of your favorite variable stars from the catalog and determine how many of the variables you are going to go after based on their exhaustive filter. On the Visibility icon you can determine to have only visible stars be listed. Of all the apps on this list, this is the one I give 5/5 stars to.

6. Grand Tour

An interesting though not glamorous planetary program. Here is the opening screen:

After you load you are taken to a picture of the Earth from space and your location is in a diamond. Down below on the icons on the very bottom you have Earth, Go to . . . What's Up? Clock, Prefs, Catalog and Info.

The Goto feature allows you to choose to go to the Sun, a planet and some of the planets moons for those who have a ton like Jupiter and Saturn, you can choose from the larger ones. I went to Saturn and then so you know you can zoom in and out per the usual command to see more of its moons etc.

What's Up will take you t o a screen of what objects in the solar system are currently up in your sky, and which are below the horizon.

Clock will allow you to speed up time or slow it down. Preferences allows you to personalize the program by putting borders on constellations or putting their names and stick figures on them. To put the names next to the objects in the solar system and to make Venus cloudless or to show or not show Pluto. Other options are contained.

Catalog brings up other planetary programs like Distant Suns etc. with links to let you buy the full version right now. A decent solar system program but not spectacular. I'd give 2.5/5 stars.

7. planetfacts app

This is a very solid tool that you can use in the classroom if you have iTouches or an iPad for your students or in outreach. Here is the opening screen.

The solar system icon will bring up the Sun, and then you can finger over to each planet one at a time. If you double tap the object (Sun or the planet) and information screen that will come up that will give some of the very basic information for that object that students may need for a report or an electronic presentation they may have to create. Here it is:

Scrolling down provides more information on the object. The next feature is a Size and Scale feature that shows how large the Sun is and compares each planet to the Sun. In this part of the app they let the user know that distance is not to scale. You simply keeping scrolling to your right to get the other planets.

The next one is distance scale which allows the user to see how far the objects are from the Sun in millions of miles.

The last feature is a wonderful dictionary going from A to Z with many terms that a novice to astronomy, and to the solar system would need to know. Here is that sample:

As an educator with iTouches in my classroom this program gets me really excited as I begin to think about changing up how to teach the solar system to my students. 5/5 Stars as an educational tool. Great for outreach as well.

I have about 5 more apps to review but the club is doing a public outreach and I am wanting to attend if the weather cooperates so I'll stop here. Look for Free Astronomy Apps 3b review probably tomorrow or early next week. Also, I have two other reviews on apps in my blog that I'll invite you to do a quick blog search for apps and they should easily come up. I'll include a link to all them in the next day or two. Continue to gaze upward!