Name That App: Cosmic Discoveries

I’ve been mystified by the sky and the big unknown that it inspires ever since the Belt of Orion was pointed out to me at science camp back in grade school. While that interest in astronomy never translated to my studies well, I like to think that a general appreciation of the stars endures. This new app from the American Museum of Natural History does a great job of making astronomy fun, but more importantly approachable. The app loads with a fun mosaic that presents content in one of the most innovative formats imaginable. It may not be organized well, but by pinching and zooming along users can dive one of thousands of small images that can be pulled up individually. At the same time though, the random layout of images makes it more fun to discover and learn new things along the way.

After spending some time with the app, I found a photo of Edwin Hubble and one from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that shows twisting dark trails on Mars’ surface that looked more like a tattoo. But it gets better. If you want to see a photo of the “deepest image of the universe ever taken,” there’s an image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope that shows galaxies from approximately 12.9 billion to 13.1 billion years ago. If we want to truly make the field of science as important as it should be, I believe it has to be fun more than anything and this app does one of the best jobs I’ve seen yet in that regard. This app could (and I hope it does) do more to make itself more engaging, but this first version of the app is a great start and I look forward to seeing more innovations like this in many more apps to come.