3D Sun iPhone app lets you stare at the sun without burning your eyes

Mar 1, 2010
Education

I feel like I shouldn’t be underwhelmed with the free 3D Sun iPhone app. I like learning about space. Although my knowledge base is pretty shallow, I like to think I at least possess the curiosity necessary to want to learn more. Having said that, I don’t quite get the 3D Sun iPhone app. 3D Sun is a […]

I feel like I shouldn’t be underwhelmed with the free 3D Sun iPhone app. I like learning about space. Although my knowledge base is pretty shallow, I like to think I at least possess the curiosity necessary to want to learn more. Having said that, I don’t quite get the 3D Sun iPhone app.

3D Sun is a spherical representation of what is happening on the sun right this minute. The image of the sun is collected by two satellites that orbit the sun, referred to here as “Stereo.” The stereo system (ha ha!) collects pictures of the sun and the various activities happening on its surface and creates the image seen on the iPhone app. I should also clarify that the image doesn’t update “live” exactly. It does seem to update at least once a day.

The image the iPhone app leaves you with looks sort of like what a Jawbreaker would look like if you stripped the candy shell off of it. It’s a yellow green and spotty, more or less. The poles are labeled and the positions of the satellites are represented graphically as well.

The iPhone app offers four wavelengths, each a different color, which apparently showcase different aspects of the sun. For instance, the orange sun “is best for seeing solar prominences (magnetic filaments filled with dense plasma).” While the green wavelength,  “is great for monitoring coronal holes, dark places in the sun’s atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows the solar wind to stream out.”

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That sounds pretty cool to me. Instead, what I see is an orange colored sun or a green colored sun. Both views accentuate different pock marks on the image, and zooming them in illuminates the different colors, but it’s a still image. It doesn’t change while you’re looking at it, so unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s actually pretty boring.

3D Sun also has a news button that alerts you to historical events pertaining the sun (February is on pace to be the first month since January 2007 with sunspots every single day!) and various other things to keep an eye out for. I actually enjoy the news portion more because I can understand what it is I’m looking for. The satellite image needs something else. Either a time lapse of the image or some greater explanation behind the still image I’m staring at.

Still, this is a free iPhone app, and if you have an interest in space or our sun, it seems worth it to check out. The news button does provide interesting tidbits, though it could stand to be updated more frequently. Astronomy geeks will most definitely want to take a look, as this is probably the closest you’ll ever get to the sun without burning your eyes out.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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