Astronomy Picture of the Day (aka APOD), made by Concentric Sky in cooperation with NASA, takes the gorgeous imagery of the the popular NASA Web site Astronomy Picture of the Day and brings it to your iPad or iPhone
device (I reviewed it on the iPad). As you might guess, each day a new picture showing some astronomical highlight (along with a written description) is available for you to view, download, or e-mail, and you can access random past images (or the image from a particular date) as well.
The APOD site was launched in 1995 and is managed by astronomers Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell. According to the app, the APOD archive contains the largest repository of annotated astronomical images on the Internet (one for each day since the site was launched. But while the APOD archive on the Web sites provides an index with titles as well as dates for each image, this app only includes the image dates. The site also lets you search on particular topics (“comet,” or—more specifically—”Comet PanStarrs,” for example), but this app has no search feature. It’s therefore best for people who want to access the current image, or enjoy looking at a random potpourri of space photos. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a shame that the app doesn’t offer the searchability of the service, which would make it vastly more useful.
APOD, the App
When you open the app, it takes you to the current day’s image, with date and image title visible at the top of the screen. An About this Image button at the screen’s bottom right corner calls up the caption and credits, the same info you’d see on the APOD site. Next to it is a button titled About APOD, which gives you information about Astronomy Picture of the Day, as well as explaining that the app is a collaboration between the APOD project and Concentric Sky.
To the screen’s bottom left is a Back arrow, which will take you to the previous day’s image. If you’re not on the current day’s image, you’ll also see a Forward arrow. At the bottom of the screen is a button titled Jump to Image. Clicking on it calls up a counter that lets you choose month, day, and year to select an image by date. Without titles, though, choosing an image by date is like Forrest Gump’s mom’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. A Random button on top of the counter will take you to an image for a random date, the Today button will take you to the current image, and Cancel removes the counter from the screen.
Although you must be online to download pictures, the app will cache recently viewed images. At the lower right corner of the screen is a Share button, which lets you save an image to your iPad’s photo album, or e-mail it (it opens up a message with the image pasted in, and a link to the APOD site), or clear your image cache.
Your Daily Space Image
Concentric Sky’s free Astronomy Picture of the Day app is best for people who want quick, one-stop access to the day’s APOD, or to randomly peruse astronomical images. Its lack of image titles or a Search feature precludes it from being useful to people interested in researching specific topics. The APOD site itself is a better tool for that audience, as its archive provides an index of image titles and adds a Search feature. There are several competing apps, most of them paid, out there, too—but we haven’t reviewed any of them yet. Stay tuned. In the meanwhile, if you just want to look at current or random images on your iPad or iPhone, Astronomy Picture of the Day gives you easy access to some great pictures.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc