Star Walk and Solar Walk – I’m in luuurve (and giveaway)

by Deb on July 23, 2010

Post image for Star Walk and Solar Walk – I’m in luuurve (and giveaway)

A couple of weeks ago my husband got me an iPhone.  I was resistant, sure my mobile was held together with MacGuyver tape and only lasted 30 seconds if not plugged in (making it pretty immobile), but I only use it when we’re on holidays so he can phone me when we’re separated.  He pointed out that the immobility issue meant I had to stay home for it to work, so he didn’t care what I thought he was getting me an iPhone.

But I wasn’t going to put any apps on.  Or only boring ones like Twitter, Facebook and banking.  Because I live in the middle of nowhere and don’t need most of it, and I’m definitely not putting games on.  I procrastinate enough as it is.

Two days later the lovely Vito Technology contacted me and asked me to try two of their apps and run a giveaway on them.  Oh dear.  You mean there are educational apps?  Lock up my credit card.

So I downloaded iTunes (seriously, I hadn’t even got that yet, what sort of blogger am I?) and found Star Walk and Solar Walk.  They are AU$3.99 each, and after playing with them for a week my review is Buy Them.  Now.  I am in luuurve.  And so is the 4 year old, and given the temperature outside at night right now that’s as good a recommendation as anything you can imagine.  There are versions for iPhone 3G/3GS and 4 and iPad.

Imagine being outside, lifting your phone and having it show you all the stars above you with labels.  Move it around and the view changes to match whatever you are pointing at.  You think one is interesting, so you tap on it to zoom in, tap the information tab and get its vital statistics in as much, sometimes more detail than an astronomy book.  (This works with 3GS, it needs the magnetometer to work out where you are pointing.)  Tap on the time control and see the sky moving above you as you scroll through the hours, days or even years.  Tap the location button and the view flips to earth, it will track your own location or you can choose anywhere you want and see what the sky looks like there.  Or use the time control again and see the day/night divide sweep across the earth.

Interested in a particular constellation or star?  It will find it for you and show you the star map, including compass points and the horizon to help you find it.  And then there are the little details – background music, stunning astronomy photo of the day (like the beautiful spiral galaxy at the top) and the ability to bookmark, tweet, or send to Facebook or email.  Rising and setting times for the sun, moon and planets and the phases of the moon, for today or you can check the future or past.  Night mode, which switches to a dim red screen to protect your eyes in the dark, and an adjustable slider so it only shows the stars you can actually see.

Star Walk

This is a bookmarked view, to actually spot stars you can turn the constellations off, turn them red and get rid of everything you can’t actually see.  The dotted line is the ecliptic, the sun, moon and planets are all found near it.

We have been going outside every night and the big girl can now identify the Milky Way, Southern Cross and pointers on her own.  She knows they are suns a long way away.  Even better, we have spotted Venus, just above it is Mars which is noticeably red, and just above that is Saturn, and she gets that they are planets moving around the sun like Earth is. How did a 4 year old get that so easily?  Well that’s where Solar Walk comes in.

Solar Walk is an interactive, moveable, 3D book about the solar system on your phone.  Tap on a planet, it’s there.  Move it to any angle, investigate its moons, watch it over the days or years, get the information.  See the whole solar system laid out before you, moving, and zoom in on the bit you want.  Watch the earth move over the years and see the change in axis that causes the seasons.  Use 3D glasses for real 3D or beautifully detailed 2D pictures.  Move the solar system to whatever angle you want to see from above, below, or see the planets moving past you.  Zoom out to Neptune and look back towards the sun, seeing the other planets dancing back and forth.  I could (have!) spend hours on here, as much information as any child or amateur would need but the ability to reach in and move the planets.  Galileo would be in heaven.  The big girl is fascinated by the fact that she can see red Mars spinning on the phone then look up and see it looks red with her own eyes, we’ve even dug my small telescope out to have a look at the moon.

And I have opportunities for you to play too, with 3 prizes here and a big one over at Vito Technology.  To enter here, comment and tell me about something you do with your kids to introduce them to the night sky.  Best will be judged by my family, whichever makes them go ‘Yeah!  Can we do that?’ the most enthusiastically.  It will get one of the T-shirts shown here plus $20 credit at the iTunes store.  There are two more T-shirts, which will go to two comments chosen at random.  Giveaway closes on Saturday 31st July.

The big prize over at the Vito Technology blog is an iPod Touch plus lots of smaller prizes.  Details are here, but you need to write about your own stargazing experiences either on your blog, Facebook or other social media.  It looks like lots of fun, they have tips and ideas as well.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori @ RRSAHM July 23, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Oh wow, how cool. My kids are a bit too little for this yet but my mum used to take us out with a telescope and a constellation chart to go constellation spotting- that was pretty cool!!
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Living in Dar July 24, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Great, more apps for me to want! lol! 😉
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AngieB July 24, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Those apps sound fantastic! I just got my iPhone a couple of months ago and was solidly in the “none of those silly games and apps” camp for about two weeks 🙂 Now I have a handful of apps I don’t know how I lived without and several my youngest just adores. These are being added on today!! I’m stopping by from Lady Bloggers Tea Party and I’m so glad I found you!
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Deb July 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I’m slowly building up my apps, I keep thinking “I bet there’s an app for that” and another goes on.

Actually the alarm is revolutionising our lives at the moment – rather than Mummy telling them it’s time for a shower/lunch/get ready, the phone singing is much more convincing!

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Robert July 25, 2010 at 7:52 am

*sighs* OK….it looks like an iPhone is in my future, unless I can get this on an Android phone.

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PlanningQueen July 25, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I wasn’t going to put any apps on my phone either, but I have loads now. These ones look great. Living in the city quite often our kids don’t get to see the real beauty of the night sky. So when we visit my family in Mildura I like to make sure we spend some time outside and night time and talk about the stars, why we can see them better in the country.

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Deb July 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm

That’s a good point, I forget how lucky we are living out here.

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Marita July 31, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I like the look if those apps. I’ve been discovering heaps of great iPhone uses in the 2 weeks I’ve had mine. I really like the time timer which is a visual count down timer. Great for the kids when mummy days 5 more minutes and then we are going home.
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Deb July 31, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I’ll have to check out the timer, the alarm has made so much difference this week. But the girls are both pretty good when they have had a warning to go, it’s Mummy who gets distracted.

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