Pocket Universe for iPhone review
Pocket Universe would amaze Galileo – this £1.79 app puts the entire night sky in your pocket. If you’re using an iPhone 3GS, Pocket Universe uses GPS to know almost precisely where you’re looking as you point your phone skyward, updating its display in real time. If you have an earlier iPhone or iPod touch the app can still use Location Services to find your approximate location and can detect as you tilt the device up or down, but you’re forced to drag left and right for lateral movement.
The Locate feature blew us away; we asked it to show us planets, constellations, bright stars, and Messier objects, and the app used arrows to guide our gaze both on screen and in reality. There’s brief explanatory text about many objects if you want to learn more about what you’re seeing. And since Pocket Universe knows both where you are and the current time, it’s representations of where celestial objects should be are consistently accurate. (You can also travel through time with the app, if you want to look up what the sky will look like next week.)
As this is an app you’ll use outside, in the dark, it offers several clever options. Nightvision mode replaces bright whites in the interface with deep reds, so you won’t suffer that blinding retina burn-out sensation when you look from screen to sky. You can also adjust the faintest stars Pocket Universe should display, which is helpful if you live in an area with heavy light pollution, or you want to focus on the brightest stars.
The Tonight’s Sky report gives you a good sense of what you’ll be able to see tonight – and when. You can email this report to anyone without leaving the app, which is a nice touch if you have amateur stargazing friends.