As readers of our Team AWT Newsletter know, I have had a lifelong love of astronomy. That's why when I was asked to take a look at Cosmic Watch (US$3.99, universal app) I jumped at the chance. The best way to describe Cosmic Watch is that it's an interactive 3D astronomical time device -- and that's exactly how developers Celestial Dynamics AG describe it.
Cosmic Watch launches into a realtime world clock with your location pulsing on a realistic globe that you can set spinning with a swipe of your finger. The app graphically shows the relationship between the Earth and Sun in terms of determining local time, with a pointer "above" your location pointing to the current time on a 24-hour clock dial circling the Earth on a direct line between the Earth and Sun.
This is a great way to see how the Earth tilts in relation to the Sun over the seasons. Of course, there's more to our Solar System than just the Earth and Sun, so there are pointers to all of the planets showing their present positions. All of this is presented against a background of brighter stars, all shown in their correct locations.
With a tap of the middle of five buttons on the left of the globe, the planet names are displayed next to their representative (and not to scale) dot, and the constellations are shown along with their names and the brighter stars that define them. Although I think it has no place in a scientifically-oriented app, Cosmic Watch also has a button showing the location of the planets with respect to the astrological signs.
Finally, there's a button that displays an orrery, a model of the solar system. What's fun to do with this is tap on the clock button in the lower right corner of the display, set the passing time to a fast setting like 7 days per second, and watch the dance of the planets around the sun -- all from a geocentric perspective. That last point is important to note, because it displays the seemingly retrograde motion of planets in the sky.
One very cool thing was that during the "fast mode", you could watch the Earth spinning madly, and then occasionally get notification that a solar eclipse had been detected on one particular day. Considering that there's a total eclipse next year across the USA on August 21, 2017, this is a great way for naked-eye astronomers to get an idea of what planets and stars will be visible during that eclipse.
Cosmic Watch is a wonderful app for anyone who is fascinated with time, the passing of the seasons, and the location of the other planets in our Solar System. It's definitely a keeper on my iPhone and iPad.