Frosh moon 150: OSU student's app a global hit

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Chris Vanderschuere was just doing a little programming task to help a Beaverton, Ore., school teach facts about the moon.

But his Moon application became much more than that.
 
Vanderschuere, a freshman at Oregon State University, got about a million more downloads than he expected, from 150 countries.

The app can run on any iOS device like an iPad or iPhone, but was designed primarily for devices with location ability, such as cellular triangulation or GPS.

Its calculations can answer many questions:

  • What did the moon look like on July 4, 1776?
     
  • Where in the sky will the moon be tomorrow?
     
  • How far is the moon from Earth right now?

It uses the current time and location, or those that the user enters, and displays details of the moon such as the phase, location in the sky and moonrise and moonset times.

A lunar surface image from NASA creates a three-dimensional center graphic that changes second-by-second as the shadow travels across the moon. A smaller picture of a moon spins around a compass to show where the moon is located in the sky, and another displays the angle above the horizon.

Vanderschuere said his mother suggested the app, for use in the K-8 school where she works.

But a Portland, Ore., kayaking company is now using it to schedule their full-moon kayaking trips.

And a photographer on safari in Africa used the app to get the perfect moon picture.

The project, Vanderschuere said, has also been a great learning experience – about programming, entrepreneurial skills, and more about the moon than he ever thought he’d know.

“What people see are some pretty graphics of the moon phases, but in order to do that I had to learn a lot of engineering principles behind the scenes,” Vanderschuere said.