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Pocket Universe updated with iPhone 4 gyro support

Mel Martin

Pocket Universe has always been one of the best of the astronomy apps, and I reviewed the earlier version positively. I like the use of augmented reality to overlay a star chart on the real sky, and there are lots of features like astronomy news, a planning module for any particular night, and quick and easy guides to finding visible comets and other nighttime events. With some nice clear summer nights there are plenty of things to see and appreciate.

The app has now been updated, and is one of the first science apps to use the iPhone 4 gyroscope. According to John Kennedy, who wrote the program, using the gyroscope speeds up orienting the phone position, because the internal compass is a bit slow and prone to interference.

The app doesn't need internet access, except for astronomy news and linking to Wikipedia articles. All the star charts and graphics are contained in the app. Pocket Universe supports a night vision mode, which turns the stars and object labels red, keeping bright glare away from sensitive eyes.

Gallery: Pocket Universe Screens | 5 Photos

The app displays 10,000 stars, but I'd like to see more. I'd also like to see more deep sky objects (nebula, galaxies, star clusters) highlighted, with pictures of those objects visible as you zoom in rather than in a pop up window. Finally, for some inexplicable reason, Uranus and Neptune have been left out of the planet information panel. I knew Pluto didn't make the cut, but as far as I know Uranus and Neptune are still planets. Both planets are visible in the sky charts, but they didn't make the screen where you get detailed information.

I like Pocket Universe. It was first out of the gate to use the compass, and to use augmented reality. At US$2.99 it is hard to beat, but as I've mentioned, I'd like to see even more.

This app works with the iPhone, iPod touch, and the iPad. You'll need an iPhone 4 to take advantage of the gyroscope feature. Check out the gallery for screen grabs.

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