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©2011 by Richard Nolle

WOW!MAR 18, 2011 Full Moon SuperMoon RisingFEB 28, 2011 - Pocket Universe is a must-have app for the iPhone- (or iPad)-toting astrophile - or the newer-model iPod Touch as well. (Thanks, MJ, for bringing this app to my attention.) The features are extraordinary, as is the price: just $2.99. Of course you can use it to see what you're looking at in the night sky: just point it where you see something of interest, turn on the "through-the-camera" feature, and whatever you see in the sky is labeled for you.

What star is that, which planet is that? Just point Pocket Universe at it, and you know at a glance. The app knows where you are and what time it is, and knows which direction you're looking.

Pocket Universe even tracks the International Space Station (ISS), which is now the brightest thing in the heavens short of the full moon. Speaking of the ISS, if you want to know where and when it will next be visible from your location, Pocket Universe has you covered. Of course you can set the location and time/date parameters; which, for example, allows you to see what the next (March 18) SuperMoon will look like when it rises at sunset. (See actual screen shot to right.)

Pocket Universe even has a night-view option, which is downright handy for actual star-gazing after sunset. There's a "Tonight's Sky" feature that lets you know what to look for, quizzes to build your astronomical expertise, and links to Wikipedia to bring you up to light speed on the Cosmos.

This is a very complete astronomy app, it should be noted, when it comes to the celestial sights it includes. Pocket Universe covers 10,000 stars and the entire Messier Catalog of Deep Sky Objects.

If you don't have the stars and constellations down cold, Pocket Universe will sort them out for you and label them as you look at them. You don't even have to go out in the cold: just point your iPhone in the right direction with the through-the-camera feature off, and you see a picture of the night sky with everything where it should be, labels and all.

I don't know how the developer manages to make Pocket Universe at this low price - it must be an economy of scale equation, given that there are so many millions of devices out there capable of running this nifty little program. If you've got one of them, and a yen for things celestial, then you really do need one of these!

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