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Science

5 cool space apps that put the universe in your hands

Images like the Omega or Swan Nebula, seen here in a Hubble photograph, can be viewed in apps like APOD.
Images like the Omega or Swan Nebula, seen here in a Hubble photograph, can be viewed in apps like APOD. NASA, ESA and J. Hester (ASU)

The universe is a marvellous thing. So is technology. Put the two together and you’ve got the universe at your fingertips.

From monitoring the sun in near real-time to wandering around Mars, the following are just some of the cool space apps on the market.

Mars Images 

iPhone/Android

Who doesn’t love Mars? The red planet has captured our imagination for hundreds of years. But we’ve come a long way from Percival Lowell thinking that he saw Martian-made canals (and that’s Martian-made, as in little green people) crossing the planet. We’ve attempted over 40 missions to the planet — with a success rate of just 47 per cent. But two of the missions that have made it are sending back stunning images while conducting scientific research.

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Mars-app

If you dream of ever stepping foot on another planet, this is probably as close as you’ll ever get. Not only does this app allow you to view images from both the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers, but the images are in near real-time.

Mars app image1

Sun Viewer 

iPhone/Android

That big ball up in the daytime sky does more than give you a sunburn. It is an active, living and breathing star that is in constant flux.

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Though we may not be able to see the sun’s surface and its activity with the naked eye (NEVER look directly at the sun), this app allows the viewer to see near real-time images in various types of light, for example extreme ultraviolet light, or hydrogen alpha. The benefit of this is that different parts of the sun become visible with each filter.

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NASA 

iPhone/Android

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NASA’s app has a load of functions.

From following various missions, to tracking the space station to looking at photos and watching videos, if you’re a space junkie, this is a must-have. You can even watch NASA TV.

NASA-app

Star Walk 

iPhone (not available on Android)

Though Star Walk isn’t available on an Android, this had to be included because of its many features.

For those who want to know what’s up in the sky that day, it provides a “Sky Live” feature that details the visibility of the planets (as well as sun and moon) and rise and set times of each solar system body.

Another cool feature is the “Gallery” which provides stunning images of the universe.

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Star-Walk-app

(Honorable mention to Stellarium (iPhone/Android). It also provides a view of the night sky, but lacks the bells and whistles of Star Walk.)

APOD

iPhone/Android

Each day NASA provides their Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) on their website. This app brings that to your fingertips.

What’s cool about it is that not only does it provide the image and explanation, you can zoom into the image and even email or post it to social media sites.

APOD-app