Developer: Core Coders Ltd
Price: $1.99 Download on the App Store
Planetarium is an iPhone app that puts the solar system in your pocket. Developed by Core Coders, Planetarium features planets displayed in beautiful 3D along with features that allow you to fly across the solar system or watch the rotational orbit of the planets. The touch screen interface allows you to take control of your viewing angles and enlarge or minimize targets.
I can't deny that Planetarium is cool or that it lacks educational benefits, but before I go any further, it should be said that the solar system is not something I have studied in any depth. Beyond trying to remember that mnemonic “My Very Educated Mother Just did something or other” to keep track of the order of the planets, I struggle with even basic astronomy and still don’t know why Pluto was demoted from planet status. That said, I can only state the facts about Planetarium and any part of my opinion on it should be taken with a grain of salt.
As far as the user interface of Planetarium goes, it is smooth. When Planetarium first loads, it targets Earth and displays the current Universal Time. By tapping the screen, a tool bar revealing all the planets in order will display at the top. You can tap on of the other planets to target and then watch as it zooms smoothly through the solar system to that planet. There are lots of lines and grids included, which I don’t thoroughly understand but know that some are the paths of the planets’ orbit.
By utilizing the touch function in Planetarium, you can create various views of the planets as well as zoom in and out. I have a hard time adjusting the views as it takes me several tries to get it just right, but more precise users will have little problem. In addition to viewing the planets, you can tap the screen to display an action tool bar at the bottom of the screen. You can then fast forward or rewind time and see the planets in motion. This particular aspect is neat regardless of whether or not you know what you’re looking at. When you watch Earth’s rotation and orbit, you can see when it will pass in front of the moon.
With an app such as Planetarium that is purely visual, it’s difficult to find words to explain it or even do it justice. Luckily, you can watch the video below to see it for yourself. As an educational tool or just to have a pocket-sized, interactive solar system, Planetarium seems solid enough to me.