Solar System Explorer [Android App Review]


YouTube link for mobile viewing

It's not often I come across an app that both humbles me and causes me to have an existential crisis, so when I find one, I know it's a keeper. Solar System Explorer caused me to go through both of these things simultaneously, and apart from making you question your tiny, insignificant self in this grand universe, you're also treated to a gorgeous layout loaded with more information about our solar system than you probably knew existed.

First thing you'll notice when you open up Solar System Explorer is how great it looks. This is a seriously polished app, with beautiful 3D models of every planet in our solar system, the moons of each planet, and each satellite the United States has launched. There's full pinch-to-zoom on all of the models as well as swiping support so you can change your perspective, too.

You move from planet to planet (or moon to moon) using pictures along the bottom of the screen. All of our planets are there, ordered from closest to farthest from the sun, and on the very end, you can get to the satellites. When you pick a planet, the pictures at the bottom of the screen change, and if the planet has any moons, images of those moons appear so you can see models and read up on them, should you choose to.

Aside from all of that, there's also an incredible treasure trove of information at your fingertips, all of it a button push away. When you've got a heavenly body selected, you're shown its general information by default, but should you leave this screen, tapping the eyeball will take you back to it. The little bar graph looking button shows you stats for your planet, all in relation to Earth.

Finally, the upside down peace sign tells you information about the structure of your planet and the 3D model changes to reflect said information. It's really quite cool seeing Earth broken up into differently colored layers and an explanation about what's going on in this beautiful blue-green ball we call home. (Plus, it reminds me of elementary school science class.)

Solar System Explorer also gives you the opportunity to just admire the solar system by hiding the information panel and zooming in and out. The full-screen experience is quite incredible, and at times like these, I wonder why I didn't do more to become something like an astronaut or work for NASA. This might "just" be an Android app, but it certainly instills a sense of awe in me.

If you're someone who has even a slight interest in our big, mysterious solar system, check this app out. It's great to just poke around in, but it's also chock full of such solid information, I don't see any reason why it couldn't be used as an educational tool, too.

Solar System Explorer is $1.99 in the Google Play Store. We've got download links after the break.

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