Since I was a child I have always been fascinated with the Cosmos and how things move in the universe. Trying to visualize how the Earth, Moon, planets, and stars all interact with each can be quite a daunting task. Cosmic Watch provides a beautifully 3D rendered sphere of the Cosmos from the vantage point of an outside oﬀ world observer.
When ﬁrst starting the app, it uses the current date/time and location from your device. In my case, I was using an iPad Air 2. You have the ability to add additional locations to your favorites list for quick access later on. This helps when you are trying to determine the current times from diﬀerent time zones.
One of the nicest features of Cosmic Watch is the ability to move forward or backward through time at diﬀerent speeds as the app animates the motion of celestial objects. This is especially useful in the Solar System view. I’ll get back to this.
The interface to the app is simple. You tap anywhere on the sphere and drag to rotate your view around the Earth. Pinch with two ﬁngers to zoom. The icons are large and most of the time self-explanatory. The website contains instructional videos and decent documentation on how it all works. This is nice to see as this app does a lot and may require some guidance to get the most out of it.
Cosmic Watch has four main sections. Clock, Astronomy, Astrology, and Solar System.
The clock feature allows for various options to be displayed on the sphere such as a clock face, seasons, and calendar. A nice to have feature would be the ability to rotate the clock face independently of the planet.
The Astronomy mode projects the stars and constellations in the inside on an imaginary sphere that is larger than Earth. This is called the celestial sphere. A sphere inside a sphere representation. The constellations that you see on the screen are reversed from your view on Earth. There is a nice video tutorial on the website that explains this in more detail.
To get a more accurate view of what you would see in the sky at night, you can switch from Celestial Sphere view to Open Sky view mode. This puts the constellations outside your viewpoint and in the correct orientation. Rotating the earth around and aligning yourself with the built-in compass and horizon line you get a view of what the sky looks like from your location. Although visually this is quite nice to look at, it does make it a bit diﬃcult to see the constellations as the Earth is blocking your view. Having the ability to ‘turn oﬀ’ the Earth would be a good feature.
The Astrology mode is interesting as it allows you to go back in time to your birth and see the position of the planets and Moon along with the symbols fo the Zodiac. The tie between Astronomy and Astrology is clear with this representation.
The solar system view is actually my favorite. This shows the position of all the inner planets of the solar system. As you increase the speed of time the planets leave behind a trail of their position, tracing a line and showing their path as seen from Earth as the planets rotate around the Sun.
I very much enjoyed this app and I hope that it will continue to evolve. The graphics are beautiful and smooth and it’s very simple to use. Kudos to the development team!
A software designer by day and passionate astronomer by night Tim’s published astrophotography and public lectures shows us the beauty of the Universe. Although legally blind, he as the ability to see universe diﬀerently, in part ultra-violet. A side eﬀect of numerous eye surgeries.
He is the owner/operator of the Deep Sky Eye Observatory (http://deepskyeye.com) located in Quinan, NS. Home to the ﬁrst Starlight Tourist Destination in North America, where he provides unique stargazing experiences to people from around the world.
Tim holds a computer science degree from Dalhousie University and a Scientiﬁc Computer Programmer’s diploma from the College of Geographic Sciences.