Many of the tech experts and geeks of today were once young boys who grew up dreaming of flying into space.
With the sad death last weekend of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, we’ve decided to take a look at the smartphone apps that keep us gazing upwards at the vast array of planets and millions and billions of stars that make up the universe.
While there are many fun, space-themed games like the recent Angry Birds spin-off, there is also a massive range of apps that crunch together the enormous amount of data that has been collected about outer space over the years, delivering it in an easy-to-use package straight to your smartphone screen.
5. ISS Live
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that NASA offers some excellent, space-themed apps to mobile users, what with the high-tech reputation of the organisation and the massive funding that it must have. ISS Live, the first of its offerings on this list, gives a comprehensive breakdown of what goes on in the International Space Station, with details about the crew, mission control and the countries involved in the project.
While the app’s interface isn’t the best we’ve ever seen it presents an impressive amount of information about the ISS including a 3D image of the station and live streams from cameras inside it. ISS Live is full of the sort of information that you hadn’t even thought about, with lots to keep you intrigued. Available for Android and iOS.
4. Google Sky
Google Sky will see you waving your phone around in the air, as the app presents a map of the universe which can be navigated by pointing the device in any given direction. Using your phone’s GPS and accelerometer Google Sky reads the position of the device and displays all the celestial bodies that appear in the direction in which it is pointing.
The app has several layers of information which can be overlaid on the display, outlining the location of planets, stars, constellations and other elements of the universe. There’s also a manual mode which allows users to navigate the map by swiping a finger on the screen. Available for Android and Windows Phone.
Exoplanet gives a 3D map of the known universe, including every planet both inside and outside our solar system. There is a comprehensive search option which allows the scanning through various stars, planets and asteroids with the app providing easily digestible information on each.
For instance, randomly selecting a planet such as Wasp-12b gives a detailed diagram of how big it is (slightly bigger than Jupiter), when it was discovered (2008) and how far it is from Earth (1392.7 light years). One small but brilliant feature that we found in this app is that it allows users to track the exact position of both the Voyager probes that were launched in the 1970s. Available for iOS only.
NASA’s official app is a go-to place for information about the space agency’s missions. Providing information about scheduled launches and news about the US Space Programme, the app gives a breakdown of each project NASA is currently undertaking, right down to small satellites sent up to monitor the weather.
Along with other news and links to the agency’s official Twitter profile the app is location-sensitive and can tell you of any orbiting objects that may be visible in your part of the world. There are also thousands of images taken by various NASA probes and a variety of videos centred on the space programme. Available for iOS and Android
1. Sky View
Sky View does mostly the same thing as Google Sky but with one extra, clever feature – it uses a phone’s rear camera and superimposes a map of the sky over the resulting image feed. This gives the app an augmented reality element that others do not have, allowing you to point your phone at a particular object in the night sky and find out what it is.
The app works in daylight too, and has similar layers to those found within Google Sky which show different kinds of solar features. Whilst far less useful in the daytime, it is still fun to find out that at the time of writing the Hubble Telescope is almost directly below us. Available for iOS and Android.