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There’s never not a reason to look up in the sky and wonder just what’s up there, but NASA’s latest little app lets the experts help you out with that, informing you on a regular basis with the answers to that question.
Made for iPhone and iPad, NASA Viz (or “NASA Visualization Explorer” as it’s actually called) is an app built to help you know what’s going on around the Earth, moon, sun, and other planets before mainstream media gets a hold of it and reports on it at that time.
Ideal for science buffs and anyone with the slightest hint of an obsession with the stars (the ones that are actually made of gas, not just the ones that do a lot of talking), it’s essentially the world of astronomy and NASA’s exploration into understanding our own world served up in bite-sized chunks for people to take in on that ride in to work.
The app is pretty simple, and you could view it as a science-friendly news reader, with the ability to save stories for later reading, mark them as favourite, or send them to a friend if need be, and much of the information seen here is the sort of stuff that newspapers generally won’t find, such as how our citywide growth affects the landscape or what fires do to the atmosphere.
Your typical space stuff is here too, like when we saw more of Pluto for the first time, when the sun erupted violently, and some neat bits and pieces for those who yearn to go to space and be an astronaut such as how orbiting units work out how craters are formed.
There’s new stuff twice a week, too, with updates appearing every Tuesday and Thursday (US time), and you can always have a browse through the older stories, most of which never really age that much due to how much information these stories will continue to offer.
But that’s essentially it, and NASA Viz is a short snippet news app designed for those of us with our heads in the clouds for a good reason, always looking up and always hoping that we too can understand what’s out there.
Overall, the app and its simplicity of use — as well as its price of free — make it an easy thing to try out, and we’re particularly happy to see an alert inside the app to warn people of the downside of using it over a cellular connection, because some of the images NASA might download to your device won’t necessarily be small.
With short movies also built into some of the stories, too, you might find this eats into your downloads, which is just one more reason why the “save for later” feature is especially handy.
The design could do with a bit of a clean-up, as this one has been sitting on the app store since around 2011, so aspects of how it looks plays to time when the design language of iOS was a little less flat than what it currently is. That means bits like the story lists — news listings, essentially — appear like a flatter take on the old iOS design, though it is relatively clean all the same, and really, you’re here to pay attention to stories about our world and the worlds around it, and that’s what matters most.
Unfortunately for Android or Windows users, this one is strictly iOS only, working on iPhone and iPad, but nothing else.
NASA says that it is “strongly committed to expanding public awareness of the Agency’s knowledge, activities and results” and that it is “tracking a wealth of public commentary, suggestions, and requests for enhancements, new features, additional platforms and desktop version”.