are a growing number of Astronomy-related applications (apps) for use
with the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. Iridium Flares, created
by Dennis van den Berg, has one simple purpose—to let you know
when and where to look for iridium flares. (Iridium flares are
short-term, very bright reflections caused by sunlight reflecting off
the antennas of communication satellites owned by the Iridium
Corporation. For more information, check out
Setting up and using
the app is very easy to do, but, because it pulls information from
the very cool Heavens Above website (www.heavens-above.com), you do
need to have a wifi connection.
1. Choose your time zone.
2. Set your
specific location in one of two ways. Either let the software find
you using the iPhone/iPod's built in GPS or manually enter your
longitude and latitude.
Once your location
is set, the app automatically displays the iridium flares viewable
from your location for the next seven days.
The main screen
shows you date, time, and intensity of the flares.
When you select the flare you are interested in seeing, a
second screen gives more details including:
Apparent magnitude from when it is first visible and when
it's at its brightest
Which direction to face (azimuth)
Your distance from the point on the ground where the
satellite would be directly overhead (the closer you are to this
point, the more accurate the predicted magnitude)
The name of the satellite
In general, this app has worked very
well for me. The direction and altitude are displayed both as numbers
and graphically. The direction is represented by a compass-like
graphic and the altitude is represented by an angle. These might not
be necessary for many night sky enthusiasts, but I found that they
made it very easy for me to look in the right place every time.
The application stores the latest
search data. This lets you take your iPod outside and still see the
results when you are out of wifi range. (This is only an issue with
the iPod Touch, since you can always have Internet access with the
I don’t find the distance
information to be terribly useful. This information on the Heavens
Above website is combined with the direction you would need to travel
if you wanted to be directly under the satellite's path.
The only real issue I have is that
it does not work for me when I try to set my location using GPS. This
could be because I have an older iPod (although it did work at one
time). Manually entering my longitude and latitude worked
• Easy to use/clean interface
• Graphic representations of intensity, direction and
• Stores the latest search data so you can still see the last
results when you are not in wifi range.
• Has an option to display
information for daytime flares
• Requires a wifi connection with the iPod Touch
• Did not work using GPS (might be specific to me)
could get this same information using a computer accessing the web,
but if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, the convenience of being
able to take it outside with you is well worth the 99
Disclaimer: I am not in
any way affiliated with Dennis van der Berg, Apple Computers, or the
Heavens Above website.