Make Cosmic Discoveries with iPhone app from the American Museum of Natural History

Nov 10, 2010
Education

Kicking off a yearlong commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Rose Center for Earth and Spaces, the American Museum of Natural History has rolled out a space-centered app called Cosmic Discoveries. To create the content for its app, the museum has compiled more than 1,000 astronomic images and created a massive mosaic that users […]

Kicking off a yearlong commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Rose Center for Earth and Spaces, the American Museum of Natural History has rolled out a space-centered app called Cosmic Discoveries.

To create the content for its app, the museum has compiled more than 1,000 astronomic images and created a massive mosaic that users can explore via pinching and pulling. In close-up view, users can swipe to see surrounding images, or tap the Info button when viewing a specific photo. The Info section contains the image title, photographer information and a description of the subject, when available. There is also an in-app commenting function on each photo, so you can share your thoughts and see what others think of the image. You can also email images to your friends, however they might be disappointed to receive them. The emailed version, which undoubtedly will look better on your computer than on your iPhone — the app sadly doesn’t support iPhone 4’s retina display — comes with a watermark splashed across the center.

Cosmic Discoveries’ main section of content is in its mosaic front page, but the app does also offer up eight in-depth story sections about specific cosmic events, such as comets, neutrino bursts and pulsars, and a ninth section devoted to the museum’s Rose Center. The stories display in both portrait and landscape mode, but the app is clearly designed with landscape reading in mind, and this alignment works much better.

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Cosmic Discoveries’ format doesn’t lend itself well to finding specific pieces of information. Instead, the app is best used by someone with a large interest in space who wants to learn things randomly or just explore the universe. The app is free, and I hope, down the road, the American Museum of Natural History will launch retina support and an iPad-optimized version for more in-depth browsing.

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