If you ask my wife, the money she spent buying me a telescope a few years ago was wasted. If you ask me or my sons, we’d disagree. It isn’t that we use it all that much, but I chalk that up to living in the Northeast – it is hard to hit that small window when the temperature is right for standing outside at night and it gets dark early enough that we can all enjoy it together. The folks at Vito Technology have a great solution – Star Walk, an educational astronomy app for the iPhone andiPod Touch that allows you to browse the night sky right from the palm of your hand without regard for time or weather!
From the iTunes Store: So no matter whether you are a novice astronomer, a potential astronaut or you just happened to admire the sky out there and fall in love with it or you simply want to spend some time to play with the stars and planets, Star Walk is what you need! Enjoy your time browsing the wonders of the sky, surprising your science teacher, traveling back and forth in time and looking at the cool constellations shapes in it.
The main features that our stargazer loved so far have been: traveling in time to look at different events in the sky on specific date, the lunar phases and the discovery of constellations images and the reason of their shapes. In this new version you find all those functionalities have been improved with an even greater number of stars and constellations’ to look at, better and more precise images, more reliability and more speed.
Star Walk is labeled as an Educational App in the App Store, and while that is true, I would extend that to say it is also ‘Edutainment’. Typically that label is used for something that is simultaneously entertaining and educational. It seems fitting because while there is lots of straight factual information that will help you understand the stars in the sky, there is enough flexibility and fun built in to keep those interested in the stars but also curious about time and space and other parts of the world busy for hours!
You start off with a basic view of the sky based on your location and the date and time. Star Walk will use the GPS feature of the iPhone 3G to get you started, but for other devices you’ll need to enter a location. Hopefully with the arrival of the new OS 3.0 and the digital compass, Vito will update the app to take advantage of that new functionality.
Our house sit on a hill over a pretty flat valley, and was built almost perfectly aligned on a north-south line, so it was simple for us to sit on our porch and know we were facing straight south. So we used the touch screen to swipe on the screen until the directional arrow faced south, and looked up at the sky to match up the stars. Once we had our bearings, we tapped a star and it displayed the constellation we were viewing.
A tap of the Info icon brings up the built-in help screen that provides in-depth knowledge about that particular star or constellation. If you need more, there are built-in links toWikipedia that allow for further research.
There are loads of options available – as each corner has an icon that opens up new possibilities. The upper and lower left corners provide direct or general information , the upper right corner allows you to alter the time, and the lower right pops up a sub-menu with three additional choices. Tapping the wrench icon brings up the settings menu that lets you change whether or not you hear sounds, automatically see constellations, and a night-mode. As shown, Night Mode changes from a bright and colorful display to a gray-mode with red overlay. This is very easy to view in the dark without your eyes adjusting to the brightness – it is a simple, but terribly useful feature.
Here is ‘normal’ mode:
Here is ‘Night’ mode:
Star Walk is one of those things you will use a little bit here and there – never dominating your time, but never falling out of your mind. I don’t know how many times one of us would say ‘look at that star’ and someone would ask ‘Dad, get youriPod!’ and we’d check out what constellation we were seeing. Since I started using Star Walk the price has dropped from $4.99 to $2.99 – and I already considered it a great value for $5! If you have any interest in looking at the stars, this is a great app that should be on your ‘Must Have’ list.
Where to Buy: iTunes App Store Link
What I Like:
– Excellent interface
– Loads of fun to explore
– Simple to do anything
– Amazing depth and access to facts
What Needs Improvement:
– Nothing significant – but hope they’ll add support for the new iPhone compass like they did with the GPS!