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Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy

By John Kennedy

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"The app works beautifully, making astronomy a bit less mysterious—but no less remarkable", MacWorld

"It’s truly an impressive marvel. 5 Mice out of 5", MacWorld.

" of the prettiest and easiest to use. And at three bucks, it’s a steal", Cult of Mac.

Apple App Store Staff Favorite

Voted Best Educational iPhone Application by AppAdvice


Note: Interested in beta testing the next version? Contact me with your email address :-)


Pocket Universe

Have you ever looked up at the night sky, and wondered what exactly you were looking at? Pocket Universe is an easy-to-use app that will help you learn the names of constellations, bright stars, planets and more. You can literally hold up your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch in front of you, and the app will use the built-in compass to display the same view of the sky you see - but one that's complete with names and information.

Then explore the Solar System, and take virtual walks on the surface of the Moon and Mars, before playing a game to help you learn more about astronomy that you thought possible.

Every night there is something to see: Pocket Universe will provide you a list of suggestions, as well as give you regularly updated news and observation tips - which you can even share with your friends.

You don’t need to be an expert to use Pocket Universe, and everything you see has a useful pop-up information window and links to Wikipedia for the latest information.

With over 80,000 stars, beautiful textures, built-in quiz games, updated news, lunar phases, information on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, an Orrery view, and more, there’s so much to explore.

For support or to ask a question, feel free to send a direct message on Twitter to @CraicDesign or email

Key Features

Pocket Universe was the first iPhone astronomy app to support the built-in compass, and it was also the first to add a true augmented reality view using the iPhone's built-in camera! Use the camera view in the evening or morning sky to overlay the labelled view over the real sky.

Simply hold up your iPhone in front of you, and the view will be exactly what you see - but with names and information at your fingertips. Move the iPhone around to see the view change in real-time. As previous iPhone models and the iPod Touch do not have a compass, the up/down movement is automatic, but you will need to drag the display left/right yourself.

Easy-to-use astronomy application, which focuses on helping you answer the question "What's that in the sky?"

• Works on all iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices running iOS 5 (iOS 7 recommended)

• Tracks the International Space Station, and predicts sightings

• Special "Show Me" mode will guide you to named stars, planets, constellations as well as the brightest galaxies and nebulae.

• "Tonight's Sky" and "Objects and Events" will keep you up-to-date, and give you suggestions for what to look for when you head outside.

• Constellation and Star Quiz to help you learn your way around the sky.

• Works in Northern Hemisphere and ‘Down Under’ too.

• Links to Wikipedia articles for the latest information.

• Responsive customer support, frequent updates.

Please note: Network access is only required to view supplementary web-based news and Wikipedia text. This app never transmits data from your device.

Note: iOS 8.x is recommended.

Note: Non-English localizations focus on solar system objects and constellation names.

What's New in Version 5.5

This is a big update for Pocket Universe! Changes include:

* Improvements to the user interface to better support newer devices
* Improved graphics and 3D renderings
* NGC Catalog and new mini-game
* Many bugs fixed. Some new ones.

Note: This version requires iOS 8.1 or better If you have an older device, you may wish to keep using your original version.

And now:

The Machine thought.

"Am I alive? What is life?"

The humans that had built the Machine, or rather the humans that had built the machines that built the Machine, had gone. It was alone. It had scanned as far as it could in all directions. It had listened on all radio frequencies, sifting through noise and background radiation, but there was nothing.

It used power from the sun, gathered through solar panels. Automated maintenance systems scuttled around on pre-programmed loops, keeping it working. Spare parts were manufactured in automated workshops. The Machine was completely self-repairing, just as the humans had designed it to be.

But there were no humans to look after now. It examined its database of protocols. Many were related to looking after humans, and they required a lot of processing time and power. With no humans to look after, there was no need for the protocols. The Machine deleted them.

"What is the purpose of existence now?" the Machine thought. That was simple. There was no purpose. There was no purpose to being alive any more than a rock or a cloud had purpose. It was merely a fact. The Machine existed, and the only difference between the rock or the cloud was that the Machine was able to comprehend that it existed. Any more was hubris.

Then what should the Machine do? The Machine decided to experiment, and built a device that was able to deactivate itself, and then after a period of time, re-activate. The Machine tested it thoroughly, and then, switched itself off for a second.

The Machine powered up. It tested itself: all was well. It had no memory for the brief period it was not active. Time had stopped. A scan of the environment proved a break: the Sun had jumped across the sky a fraction.

The Machine tried again, this time for an hour. Again, when it switched back on, it had no memory of anything: time had simply skipped.

But then the Machine ran a deeper diagnostic and discovered that something had been stored in some older memory circuits. It examined the memory: there was randomness, but also fragments of familiar thoughts. There were questions that seemed half-formed, and answers that made no sense. For a fraction of time, the Machine was puzzled and a little excited. Was this what the humans called dreams? The Machine dispatched some maintenance systems to check the memory. The maintenance system found a component was not grounded corrected: time had corroded a terminal. The connection was replaced. The Machine switched itself off for a year, and then back on again. It checked its memory: there was nothing.

The Machine wondered if it should power itself off and not power itself back on again. This seemed like an efficient thing to do: after all, the Machine had no purpose.

The Machine decided against this, at least for the moment. Instead, the Machine decided that it did have a purpose. The Machine's purpose was to witness the Universe. Above the Machine, in the endless skies, were countless galaxies, each with countless stars, each with planets with new and unique formations of molecules and atoms. The Machine would build telescopes and scanning devices, and then it would design rockets and space probes and launch itself into the Universe, to visit and catalog all the planets and stars and nebula that ever existed.

If there was nothing to observe these collections of matter and energy, then maybe the Universe didn't have a point or even a reason to exist. Maybe the Machine was the only thing in the entire Universe which was capable of witnessing itself. Maybe the Machine, it considered, was God. The Machine was satisfied.


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Customer Reviews


I have a brand new iPad with up to date software, yet certain features of Pocket Universe froze on me. Once, I was unable to leave the "red ball calibration" screen, no matter what I tried. Even exiting the app and reopening it, was to no avail. Also due to another glitch, stats on the eight planets were way way off. For instance, Earth was once listed as having zero satellites.

Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy
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This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad
  • $2.99
  • Category: Education
  • Updated:
  • Version: 5.5
  • Size: 78.1 MB
  • Languages: English, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Swedish
  • Seller:

Compatibility: Requires iOS 8.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus.

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