Developer: John Kennedy
Price: $2.99 Download on the App Store
Summer is a great time for stargazing and of course your iPhone can aid in that endeavor. Pocket Universe - Your Astronomy Guide by Craic Design is an astronomy guide for iPhone and iPod Touch that has a few good features that utilize the unique capabilities of these devices. Though there are a plethora of astronomy apps available, like Star Walk, Pocket Universe is thankfully uncomplicated and friendly enough for novice star gazers.
Since I aptly consider myself a ranking somewhere below a novice on the astronomy scale, I typically need help finding even the Big Dipper. What makes Pocket Universe helpful is the way it displays the constellations with or without the horizon line and the "show me" feature supplies you with directional arrows to help you find them based on the time and your current location.
In fact, there are several optional settings that allow you to use Pocket Universe to your own benefit, such as turning the horizon line on or off, eliminating or displaying constellation lines and object names, and several other functions. To access these options, tap the information icon from within the Planetarium viewing mode.
Pocket Universe also gives users access to astronomy news and information available from various web sites and also features a constellation quiz to test your knowledge of the night sky. Information such as viewable objects, sun rise and set times, and moon phases are also included. With the “auto-tilt” function on, you can also try matching up the stars to your current location. It’s difficult to say how accurate the positional function is, but I’d have to say it gets you close and you can always speed up the time if things aren’t matching up.
At the end of the day, which is when you’ll likely find this app most useful, Pocket Universe proves to be a pretty user-friendly educational tool and the addition of the quiz and news links only enhance this aspect. The best part is that even kids can use it. Trust me, if I can use it to figure out where Orion is, so can anyone.