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Sun-spotting on your iPhone, solar physics for beginners

You know, apps for the iPhone no longer vary from useful to nuisance. Not when NASA gets involved. A new iPhone application gives you a live view of the sun as well as alerts, images and even videos of interesting events (how about the death of a comet?).

To be honest, I’m not keen on astronomy. But you don’t have to be to appreciate this application. It isn’t just a bunch of images brought together into a 3D model of the sun but real action coming to your iPhone from the Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory (a.k.a. STEREO).

STEREO-A and STEREO-B are two spacecraft monitoring the solar surface from two sides. Their positioning makes sure they won’t miss a thing happening on the sun.

At first you might be surprised that the sun displayed on your iPhone is green. There’s nothing wrong with your phone. Or with the app. The telescopes aboard the STEREO-A and STEREO-B observe the sun in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

So, the sun looks green (though as of version 2.0 the app has some extra EUV wavelengths added so by changing the wavelength you can also change the sun color into blue, yellow or orange).

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3D sun app in action

You can spin the 3-dimensional sphere, zoom in or out. There are also live alerts. If the sun activity is about to grow or there is something interesting going on you’ll be among the first to know. The 3D sun app will then show video clips of what happened. Just don’t imagine some great explosions or something. It’s science, not Hollywood!

If you want a glimpse of the sun even if the whole sky is full of clouds, just go to the App Store and get the 3D sun application. It’s free.



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