Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: Exoplanet App for the iPhone

Exoplanet discovery is fascinating stuff. We've been at it for a while now using various techniques and instruments, and our perception of our stellar neighborhood in terms of planetary frequency, composition and the potential for life has shifted dramatically from, say, a decade or two ago. Keeping up with the rapid developments in this astronomical field can be tough, if this field indeed piques your interest.

Enter the "Exoplanet" application for the iPhone (and related devices) by Hanno Rein. This app is easy to use, visually pleasing and boasts some great features. Such features include a current and frequently updated database of all known exoplanets with related information (physical characteristics, parent star characteristics, orbital details, detection method), animations which depict the planet's orbit and size with respect to planets in our own Solar System, a plot map which depicts the location of all known exoplanets in our galaxy, a current news feed as well as some excellent information about exoplanet science (discovery, analysis of atmospheres etc.). The other nifty feature I like is the push notification you receive when a new planet is discovered. It makes you feel somehow more connected to the exoplanet hunter community. Nice touch.

Best of all (not that I am a cheapskate!) but it is FREE! What a great idea to make this type of application, and the inherent data within it, free. Very good show!

I spend a lot of time using this application, purely just out of interest. It's fascinating to go through each planet (currently standing at 505!) and review their details. Seeing the visual comparisons is sometimes staggering., especially when focusing on the super Jupiter type planets. How many moons will they have?!

Check it out - I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Johany said...

I didn't even know there was an application for this! Especially for free! Thanks so much Phil for letting us know. I'm so getting it! Would love to hear of any other astronomy applications for the iphone that you use?

Phil said...

Hi Johany, and thanks! I also use SkyVoyager (now called "Sky Safari") an awful lot. It's not free, at US$14.99, but well worth the price. See my write-up here...

skiingbean said...

I just downloaded this app after the recommendation of our guide at the mona kea observatory in Hawaii. Fantastic.
However I am having trouble getting back to our own solar system. Is there a quick way to do this?

Phil said...

Hi Skiingbean,

This Application is really used to denote the findings of planets outside of our own Solar System. It really only has info on our own planets to do comparative scaling of the newly discovered planets to our own.

If you want to get an app that covers our own system, I recommend "Planet Facts" which is free and has basic planet info. If you want to hunt down the planets yourself with binoculars or a telescope, download the Stellarium application which will show you the position of the planets based on your location.