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.


Reader comments

Solar System Explorer [Android App Review]


Looks good. Two problems, the price and the size of the app. I imagine it's hard to cram in a whole solar system and keep it small, but 14 mb is pretty huge.

I love how 14mb is "huge" when the app size limit has been increased from 50mb to what was it? 4GB or something big. Makes 14mb sound tiny lol

The take away from reading comments on this article:

1. Android users are cheap
2. Android users don't have perspective about the size of apps

My guess is that the lack of perspective regarding size is due to the fact that so many early Android devices had anemic storage space and of course were incapable of storing apps on the SD card. Old habits die hard.

I definitely agree with you. Quite a few games run into the 10 MB range or a bit higher ( gun bros is 142MB alone ) until they are moved to a SD card. Plus 2 bucks is cheap. I bet an app for the iPhone / iPad would be twice as much.

Size is relative, I guess. I have much, much more space now that I've flashed Harmonia, but I still keep an eye on app size. Old habit, as somebody pointed out. A 14 MB app would top my list when sorted by size, edging out (but only slightly) the bloated Google+ app.

First, the review. Excellent job, Josh. I enjoy matter of fact reviews. But, the rare occasion that the reviewer is truly moved by something is an awesome human interest insight. I think you did an oustanding job injecting both facts, and your own personal enjoyment into this one.
Next, the app. Two dollars is not expensive. And one would not be a 'sucker' for purchasing it. Especially if they have an interest in astronomy. When you consider the time and effort the Developer took to make this app look as good, and function as well as it does, two dollars is very inexpensive. And anyone who has done any development work, or has tried to take the time to learn HOW to dev, should realize this.
Another point on this app. With the way it is set up, I can easily see it making someone who has never really cared one way or the other about astronomy start to take a serious interest in it, especially if they are young. That, in and of itself, is worth far more than the two dollar asking price.