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Star Chart Virtual Reality App Puts Planetarium on Your Smartphone

Saturn in Star Chart for VR
A close-up of Saturn in Star Chart for VR. (Image credit: Star Chart)

A new virtual reality app lets users explore the solar system up close, from scorching-hot Mercury to faraway Pluto and beyond.

The app, called Star Chart for VR, is billed as the first virtual reality planetarium. When used with the Google Cardboard viewer, it lets viewers experience virtual reality via their smartphones or other mobile devices.

Star Chart for VR currently includes a 3D solar system (complete with sun, planets and major moons), 88 night-sky constellations and a real-time view of the planets and stars that are visible from Earth.

"You can finally let your inner child’s astronaut loose to explore space, the night sky and our solar system in detail," reads a statement that the app's maker, Escapist Games, sent to Space.com.

"From the tiny moons of Mars to the farthest reaches of the Pluto system, from constellations and stars to looking down on Earth, you’ll get a perspective on the size and scale of the universe you’ve never had before — you’ll actually be there!" the statement adds.

Major features of Mars in Star Chart for VR. (Image credit: Star Chart)

Star Chart for VR is based on the augmented-reality stargazing and astronomy app Star Chart, which has 20 million users across the world. Escapist Games' catalog of games includes Star Chart, Mountain Biker and Nuclear, the last of which allows users to build the elements of the periodic table.

The virtual reality version of Star Chart is now available on Gear VR and Google Play, and will soon be released for Apple iOS systems (such as the iPad and iPhone).

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or Space.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.