4 stellar new features to check out in the NASA app

Mashable 01 Jan 2021 04:00
Explore space from the palm of your hand with the NASA app
Explore space from the palm of your hand with the NASA app
Image: NASA/SOFIA; NASA/JPL-Caltech/Roma Tre Univ.

The NASA app has always been a solid scientific resource for armchair astronauts, but some recent updates have taken it from educational to sensational. This is in part due to a new augmented reality tool, stunning 360-degree videos, and an awesome use of the widgets functionality in iOS 14.

 If it's been a while since you took a look at NASA's app, or if you haven't yet had the time to take a look, then have a read through our four stellar reasons below that explain why it's high time you check it out now, no rocket or rover required.

1. A galactic gallery 

The NASA app contains as many as 19,000 official images that you can browse, rate, and favorite. What we love about the NASA image database is that as well as share the images, you're completely free to use them as your smartphone or tablet's wallpaper or lock screen image, which can look out of this world. 

To save or share an image, simply tap on the screen and look for the action options. On iOS, this is a box with an arrow icon that will appear at the top right of your screen. 

In addition, for iPhone and iPad users, thanks to the new widget creation functionality in iOS 14, which adds mini shortcut applications to your homepage, you can enjoy a fresh NASA image update every day without even opening the NASA app. 

You can download the widget app, which's been developed especially for iPad but is also available for iPhone, here. This is obviously not the full NASA app, but a third-party offering for iOS which gives you a handy Astronomy Picture of the Day update. 

Alternatively, if you want to view the International Space Station from the ground looking up, you can set up alerts to get notifications when the ISS is due to pass your location. To set these up you first need to allow the NASA app to give notifications.

You'll now see the option to get notifications five, 10, or 15 minutes before the ISS is due to pass your location.

Simply tap on each tab to see what's available to view. 

You won't get the full benefit of the 4K high-definition videos on the average smartphone or tablet's screen, but they still look impressive. This content really shines for those with 4K capable TVs who can enjoy the absolutely jaw-dropping 4K content via the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku apps. 

The NASA app saw a recent update that brought some brilliant augmented reality content. You can access this astonishingly great functionality if you have an up-to-date smartphone or tablet. 

This feature borrows tech from a standalone NASA augmented reality Android app called Spacecraft AR, originally produced by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It uses AR technology to put virtual 3D models of NASA's robotic space explorers into any environment with a flat surface.

3D models you can bring to life include NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, and the Juno, Cassini, and Voyager spacecraft. You can also see the giant 70-meter NASA Deep Space Network dish.

The NASA app is a cross-platform offering although, obviously, full functionality won't be the same across all devices. 

Happy space exploring, armchair astronauts! 

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