3D Sun is a free app for iPhone and iPod touch that keeps you up to date on all the news related to our Sun. There is news on sunspots, aurora, coronal mass ejections and possible impacts on the Earth. The current image of the Sun in several ultraviolet wavelengths is provided via two spaced-based observatories, Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO).
Launched in 2006, the two STEREO satellites are actually in the Earth's orbit around the Sun, one ahead of the Earth and one trailing behind the Earth. The goal is to monitor the Sun, with stereo capability, and reveal eruptions and events that could affect power grids and near Earth orbit satellites.
View of Sun (171 Angstroms)
For some reason, this app makes me think of my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Inner Light" in which Captain Picard is trapped in an energy beam from a space probe that renders him unconscious. He awakes as Kamin, and spends his entire life living on a planet threatened by increasing radiation from the local sun. In some scenes, Kamin is seen using a homemade telescope with which he monitors the sun and keeps records. It's an amazing episode.
While we probably don't need to worry as much about our own Sun, it does engage in cyclic changes, averaging 11 years long, that can affect the Earth. Short term bursts of matter and radiation can affect our Earth's atmosphere, power grid, and electronics. So, in the spirit of Kamin, an astute technical member of society may want to consider reading as much about our Sun as anything else. After all, it's our planet's source of life.
3D Sun is simple. It shows the current view of the Sun in the best wavelengths, beyond what the human eye can see, namely extreme ultraviolet: 304, 284, 195, and 171 Angstroms. A news page keeps you up to date on everything happening with the Sun and also includes some really neat, but necessarily short, videos
Video of SDO launch through, and disrupting, a sundog
The Help page explains why each of those ultraviolet wavelengths is useful.
While the application is simple (and free), and not all that extensive, it may well serve to interest users in learning even more about our closest star. The NASA page for STEREO linked above is a great place to start.
One never knows how a simple free app like this might lead to greater curiosity about our Sun, much as the video "Our Mr. Sun." did for the baby boomers in the 1950s and 60s.
3D Sun is free and requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later. Give it a try. You may suddenly find yourself wanting to learn a whole lot more.