Star Walk is a stunning visual app for everyone interested in the heavens above.
Star Walk – 5 Stars Astronomy Guide has zoomed to the top of the educational apps for the iPad charts with an astonishing stargazing application that provides a stunning entry into the world of astronomy. Star Walk lets you track and learn about more than 9,000 stars, planets, constellations and “deep sky” objects. It’s a great educational tool for amateur astronomers and a useful reference for those who already know about the heavens. With its slick interface and high-resolution graphics, Star Walk lets you take an incredible trip through the skies by just tilting your iPad or touching and dragging celestial objects.
Go forward in time…or backward
Upon opening the app you are greeted with Sky Live, which provides a wealth of astronomical data that will whet the appetites of most stargazers. The rising and setting times along with the elevations of the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn appear on an impressive graphic display. Further additional information is included, such as the past, present and future phases of the moon as well as the length of the current day; and fittingly cosmic-sounding music plays along in the background. By tapping the arrows on either side of the current date, you can go back or forward in time; and as you travel through the days, you can see the moon phases change and the data for the other celestial bodies featured on the screen change as well.
By tapping the X button, you escape from the Sky Live screen and are greeted by an array of stars and other celestial objects. Now, you just need to hold and tilt your iPad and the screen will instantly display and track the sky. A star spotter feature will automatically detect your location and display the actual sky in front of you. Move your iPad in any direction you wish, and the screen will update according to the iPad’s current position. Because Star Walk can employ the iPad’s built-in location detection capability and its accelerometers to determine your location, you’re presented with a real-time view of the sky whichever direction the back of your iPad is oriented. As you move so does the display, providing a virtual experience that’s impressive in both its simplicity and presentation.
Check out the sky on the other side of Earth
If you like, you can point your iPad toward the ground to see celestial bodies on the other side of the Earth. The app’s amazingly accurate sense of direction will help you to track down whatever it is in space you are looking for. You can navigate by either using the accelerometer to move the iPad or by swiping and dragging. Zooming in and out is done by selecting and pinching the star you are interested – it will loom closer, and by touching it, you can bring up information.
Each corner of the application contains an icon that allows you to control settings, activate search, provide additional information about any object and change the time. The settings are straightforward and allow you to customize the display. You can have the app read your location automatically, or you can choose it from a list. It’s possible to turn off constellations and background sounds, and the stars displayed can be filtered by their brightness in the night sky. You can even change the wavelength of your display from a bright infrared through the more typical dark blue and black skies to a purplish gamma ray color. The constellations are not only named but also appear in their ancient representations. Below is an example of the creativity early people used in assigning identities to their stellar vistas.
Map a planet’s course through the future
By tapping the magnifying glass icon at the bottom left of the screen, you will bring up the search menu, which allows you to either type the name of whatever you are looking for or select an object from a comprehensive list. Five categories to choose from will also appear at the bottom of the screen – Constellations, the Solar System, Deep Space, Stars and Satellites. Choosing a particular item will flip the screen and display the object name in green or the object itself circled in a green, animated circle. By tapping the information button (i), you will bring up relevant information, including Wikipedia entries. Names of objects that are currently below the horizon appear dimmed on the list.
The time icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen allows you to extend your control of star viewing into the past and future. Once selected a panel drops down and you can easily navigate through days, months and years, whereupon the sky and its contents smoothly change. Here you can view how planets travel on their orbital paths in relation to each other and the stars. The entire process is very intuitive, and you’ll be mapping heavenly bodies and their courses in no time at all.
The bear-paw icon in the lower right-hand corner of the display allows you either to go back to the Sky Live screen or access information about the app. This information ranges from a Help section that includes a video tutorial to a Calendar section with information about recent and upcoming astronomical events. The sections that will probably appeal most to users, however, are the Bookmarks option – which allows you to save any images you capture on the app – and the Picture of the Day, which includes some stunning cosmic photographs with detailed descriptions. And the good news is that these beautiful images can be downloaded to your photos folder and sent via Facebook, email or Twitter links.
Ultimately, Star Walk is an excellent planetarium app that can be returned to time and time again for anyone interested in learning more about bodies in space and Earth’s relationship to them. The app is simple and intuitive enough for kids to navigate but also sufficiently sophisticated to keep astronomers satisfied in their stellar quests.
|Good Point||The app includes great attention to detail and runs smoothly without glitches.|
|Bad Point||It can be tricky to match up the stars you are looking at on the screen to those you are looking at in the sky.|
|Comment & Tip||Watch carefully to see an occasional shooting star zoom past the screen.|
|App Name||Star Walk – 5 Stars Astronomy Guide||Developer||Vito Technology|
|Price||$2.99||Latest Update||December 16, 2011|
|User Age||All ages||Category||Education|
|Size||144 MB||OS||iOS3.0 or later|
All images captured from Star Walk