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Space on your phone

Jim Seida / msnbc.com
Video clips for the iPhone feature imagery from the high-resolution camera on
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, including this view of Tyrrhena Crater.


Mobile devices such as Apple's iPad, announced this week, are providing new ways to see the crown jewels of space science: glorious views from the frontiers of the universe. However, getting to the good stuff sometimes requires a little sleuthing. Check out some of the brightest gems - and feel free to pass along your own favorites.

Audio podcasts have been around for years upon years, of course, and last year we touched upon the growing wealth of science vidcasts. Much of that content can be heard or viewed on a mobile device as well as a computer screen - via YouTube channels, iTunes, special apps or Web sites optimized for mobile.

If you want to see cosmic pictures on a compact screen, here are a few places to start:

  • NASA Images: The Internet Archive has partnered with NASA to offer up a huge repository of space imagery, including video. You can connect with NASA Images on the Web, or via an iPhone app. There's also an official NASA iPhone app that can show you archived imagery, tell you when the next shuttle launch is scheduled or show you where to look for the International Space Station. This NASA Web page rounds up scores of the space agency's vidcasts. (For example, here's a video retrospective on Spirit's six years of roving.)
  • Hubble's Universe: The Space Telescope Science Institute offers a couple of video series, including Hubble's Universe Unfiltered, which provides scientific context for the space telescope's stunning imagery; and Tonight's Sky, a monthly stargazing guide. Hubble's Universe is also available via iTunes for Apple's mobile devices.
  • Hubblecast: The European Space Agency's Hubble team has its own series of vidcasts, available for viewing online or on mobile devices. Hubblecast is also on iTunes, naturally.
  • ESOcast: Hubblecast host Joe ("Dr. J.") Liske also anchors the European Southern Observatory's series of astronomy-themed shows.
  • GLASTcast and Goddard Shorts: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center offers a couple of vidcast series. One series, "The Extreme Universe," focuses on the gamma-ray-watching Fermi Space Telescope, while the other presents short subjects keyed to space research at Goddard.
  • Space Images from JPL: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory offers an iPhone/iPod app that pulls together hundreds of images, organized by category. If you're on the Web, you'll probably prefer working with JPL's Photojournal instead.
  • HiClips from HiRISE: For some time now, the team behind the HiRISE hi-res camera for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been putting out a series of "HiClips" - video montages suitable for viewing online or on mobile devices, complete with spacey soundtracks. It's easy to get to the latest HiClip on the Web, or find the archived HiClips on YouTube.

In fact, pretty much all of this content can be found on YouTube channels or iTunes if you do a search. You'll find lots more besides - such as "The Week in Space," a vidcast series presented by Spaceflight Now and hosted by longtime space journalist Miles O'Brien. Are there other cosmic vidcasts you're following? Feel free to add them in your comments below.

You can also click your way through the latest installment of "The Month in Space Pictures," starring way-cool images from HiRISE, Hubble, Cassini and other space probes. It's an impressive lineup, worth seeing on the biggest screen you can find. Just in case you're looking for more information or bigger pictures, here are links to the image sources:

  • 'Trees' on Mars: Scientists say the forests of Mars are merely an illusion. You can get the big picture from the HiRISE Web site.
  • Whirling stars: Get the big picture of star tracks in the skies above the Swiss Alps.
  • Start to finish: Is one big picture worth hundreds of words when it comes to appreciating this month's annular solar eclipse?
  • Celestial sparkles: Hubblesite has more about the space telescope's picture of the 30 Doradus Nebula.
  • Spots on Saturn: Click on over to the Cassini imaging team's Web site for a more detailed view of stately Saturn.
  • Drill, baby, drill: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has more about the Opportunity rover's study of a peculiar Martian rock.
  • Cosmic flame: The Flame Nebula flares up larger on the European Southern Observatory's Web site.
  • Opening the hatch: The big picture shows you a spaceflier's face through the window of a Russian Soyuz capsule just after its fall to Earth.
  • After the quake: My post-earthquake roundup points you to more satellite imagery of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
  • Year of the Cat: You'll find more views of the Cat's Paw Nebula on the ESO's Web site.
  • Waves of Martian sand: Check the HiRISE site for more about the Red Planet's weird waves.
  • Out for a spin: NASA Human Spaceflight presents a sharper image of a Soyuz capsule maneuvering near the International Space Station.
  • Shining seas: NASA's Earth Observatory explains the sunglint seen in this picture of Italy's boot.
  • Great Brrrr-itain: You'll also find the full story behind a wintry satellite view of Britain on the Earth Observatory Web site.
  • Tale of a galaxy's tail: Intrigued by the twin-tailed galaxy ESO 137-001? You'll find the rest of the story on the Chandra X-ray Observatory's Web site.
  • Cold moon: The moon looms like a beachball over a snowy Swiss scene in the big picture.
  • The final frontier: When it comes to images of the universe's farthest reaches, Hubblesite delivers the GOODS.

Join the Cosmic Log team by signing up as my Facebook friend or following b0yle on Twitter. And pick up a copy of my new book, "The Case for Pluto." If you're partial to the planetary underdogs, you'll be pleased to know that I've set up a Facebook fan page for "The Case for Pluto."