Planets Review for iPhone/Touch


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Developer Description:
Is that dot in the sky a star or a planet? Answer that question with this application. Discover when you can see your favorite planet, and where to look in the sky in relation to the stars.
Provides lots of interesting information:

  • location of the sun, moon, and planets in the sky
  • maps of stars and constellations
  • rise and set time of the sun, moon, and planets
  • current and future moon phases
  • 3D globe view of all planets and the moon
  • facts sheet for each planet, including moon names

The Low Down:
Recently my family attended a star gazing party sponsored by my wife’s work.  A telescope club gave a presentation and set up their amazing scopes.  We were able to see some amazing parts of space, including the rings of Saturn.  History is my chosen teaching field, but I have always been interested in science, especially astronomy.  To my delight, my four year old son, Peyton, loved every minute of it.  He was pulling me from scope to scope to see what they were focused on.  On the drive home, Peyton begged me for a telescope.  Of course, a telescope is not in the budget so I checked the app store to see what was available.  Planets is free and had decent reviews so it was my choice.

For a free app, Planets is beautiful.  The Sky page uses your location to give a map of the sky and all of the stars/planets at the current time.  During the day it just shows the sun and explains that the stars are not visible.  This feature is great since the stars change locations.  This is an up to day view.  One thing I hope is added in an update is the use of the compass.  The view always shows North straight ahead.  It would be amazing if the star map moved with your actual direction.  The next button is Visibility.  This gives a detailed timeline of when the sun and each planet will be viewable.  Some days it is during the night, others during the day.  Clicking on the planet gives a description and stats.  Next is the Globe button.  A 3D view of every planet complete with zoom and rotation is available.  Earth actually has the sun location in real time.  The phone location is marked with a red X on the globe.  Each planet is very detailed and a latitude and longitude grid is exposed when moving the planet and really gives a 3D feel.

Peyton and I checked in on the globe all day seeing where it was day and night.  We used the teachable moment to understand why part of the earth is light and the other dark.  He is amazed by the app and wanted to look at it about every 5 minutes all day.  This evening we looked at some of the map and found those places in the sky.  Not only was it educational, but a fun bonding time under the stars.  He did let me know that if we had a good telelscope the app would be much more fun.  Maybe someday!

Some additions that could make this app amazing:  Utilize the compass!  I would love it!  Also, when clicking on the map, planets include some information.  If the galaxies and other items also displayed a name and nominal information, the app would be a one stop astronomy shop!

What I like:  Beautiful, educational, amazing.

What I don’t:  More information beyond the planets.

Should you download?  If you can see stars (I live Deep In The Heart of Texas, so they are Big And Bright!) Get it now!

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About the Author

Travis Ehrlich
Travis is a high school teacher and coach in a small South Texas town. His love for gadgets began at a very early age, and he has been a cross between a jock and a geek for most of his life. He has two boys and a wonderful wife who lets him be a gadget freak. He is a Mac convert and has drank the whole pitcher of Kool-Aid! He is also an avid guitar player and loves the outdoors, especially hunting with both a bow and rifle.