Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy – Review

On August 2, 2009

App Type: Uncategorized

Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy – Review

Our rating:

By: John Kennedy

Version #: 1.7.1 (iPhone OS 3.0 Tested)

Date Released: 2009-03-01


Price: 2.99

User Rating:

Being the backyard astronomer that I pretend to be, I enjoyed the app Planets – it’s free and has a great simple interface.  But I wanted more; and I especially wanted to know what I was looking at right now. 

Today I tried Pocket Universe and was pleasantly surprised.  It definitely does a lot more than Planets. 

Pocket Universe has 3 main ‘modes’—planetarium, tonight’s sky, Lunar Phases, and Jupiter’s moons.  It also has a quiz.

The Lunar Phases, Jupiter’s Moons, and Tonight’s Sky are all “nice to have” features—each one gives text and graphical displays information about the topic.  Each screen is  presented concisely  and clearly.

All the “main action” happens in the ‘Planetarium” screen though.  In there, you can use your iPhone to explore the sky as it is now any time forward or back.  Scrolling around the sky you can double click on the ‘cross hairs’ to zoom in to a particular area.  Highlighting a ‘yellow’ constellation, planet, etc. will bring up facts and information about that one.

There is an option so that tilting the phone up or down moves it correspondingly to the sky.  On a 3gs, because it has a compass, you can also turn it left and right.  (If you do not want to tilt and pan your phone, you can also use your finger to swipe along the sky to any position you want.)

I think the default options give you just enough information—but if you want more, Pocket Universe has it.  (I, however, don’t have the faintest clue what any of it means!)

All-in-all, Pocket Universe is a fun up to use and play with.  I’m sure it will come in quite handy while gazing at the night sky throughout this summer 

Quick Take

Value: High

Would I Buy Again:  Yes

Learning Curve:  It took me a little bit to get used to it–flicking around the night sky can get a bit dissorienting at times

Who Is It For: Casual to Moderate astronomers–it gives you the basics and a bit more.  

What I Like:  Really nice interface and unitive display.  "Wow" was the word I heard most when I showed people this app. 

What I Don’t: None off hand

Final Statement: Pocket Universe is a must have for any back yard star gazer.


Read the Developer's Notes:
Pocket Universe is the ideal astronomy program for those keen to learn about the night sky. The unique display is generated dynamically depending on your location and time, and then rendered in 3D for a super fast response - flick the sky and it spins around you.

Now with compass support on iPhone 3GS! Move your iPhone left, right, up and down and the view updates automatically: it's never been easier to explore the sky. Other devices still support up and down motion.

If you are running Pocket Universe on an iPhone 3GS, you can use the new "virtual sky" mode. Simply move your iPhone up and down, left and right and the view of the sky will match what you see. It's never been easier to name the objects in the sky!

On the iPod Touch and iPhone 3G, the image will change as you hold the device up in front of you, making it easy to match what you see on the screen to the real sky. Pinch the screen to zoom in to planets, and double-tap to zoom out.

Use the "Show Me" option to guide you from facing North to the object you are looking for - it's never been easier to put a name to those lights in the sky, or check to see what the phase the Moon will be for the entire month. Use the built-in time machine to see what the sky will be like tomorrow, or quickly jump to nightfall. On cloudy nights, play the Constellation Quiz, with with or without helpful outlines. You'll soon be an expert skywatcher!

Pocket Universe is ideal for beginners, and works well with naked-eye vision, or as a guide when using a pair of binoculars.


•Plots the position of the Sun, Moon and Planets (including Pluto)

•Displays 10,000 stars

•Draws the 88 Constellations outlines

•Show Me mode for guidance to planets, constellations and bright stars

•Lunar phases for the current month

•Tonight's Sky creates a list of meteor showers and visible planets

•Constellation Quiz helps you learn your way around the sky
O U R   T A K E . . .

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