With the iPhone, most of the attention on applications seems to focus on games and entertainment. There are also a ton of educational apps available for the popular Apple phone too. Pocket Universe is one of those and it’s available in the iTunes AppStore right now.
This little app displays the visible stars using a combination of resources available on your phone. First, it geo-locates you to a specific position via GPS, then it uses the on-board compass in your phone to detect which direction you’re facing, and finally it then accesses star maps and displays them in 3-D on the screen.
Key reference points are highlighted, so you can orient yourself quickly, and then you can scroll through the map either with gestures or by moving and zooming in or selecting stars and constellations brings up information on them. Without looking at the sky, maybe during the day, you can still bring up maps to plan your night time viewing or to learn something new.
This app is very cool and educational. Even if you don’t have 3G or Web access while using it, the star maps are all brought up using on-the-fly calculations based on your phone’s settings (time, date, last known location), so you’re never without them. With 3G and Web access, you can also get specific information on stars, constellations, future events and predictions (such as meteor showers and comets) and more. Most of this comes from Wikipedia and web-based news.
Finally, you can look at our solar system and the current locations (rendered in 3D) of planets all the way out to Pluto. Other cosmic information such as lunar phases and galaxy locations are also there. Finally, the cool Night Vision mode shows everything in shades of red so as to not disturb your night vision for better night viewing.
This is an awesome app and if you have kids, you definitely need this.