Growing up in suburban neighborhoods full of light fixtures, airplane traffic, and an illuminated sky just miles away from the uptown, I’ve never really had a chance to just step out in my back yard and appreciate the night sky. The light pollution is awful, and I always remember heading out on camping trips with my Dad and staring up at the night sky that was alive with flickering lights and unknown suns. I may appreciate those ancestral bodies more than others, but I think everyone would find Star Walk for the iPad to be an application you’ll immediately fall in love with.
A nifty tool I use on my Motorola Droid is a very nice Google application called Sky Map. It’s probably one of the most well executed and most interesting Android apps available on the Android Marketplace, and I’ve geeked out with it for some time. I like to think of Star Walk as, “Sky Map HD Plus.” You have similar functionality and features, plus a whole bunch of goodies added on that makes space really come alive on the iPad.
Opening the application, you’re greeted with Sky Live, which is a window of information that informs you of when you can see available planets in your skyline; past, present, and future phases of the moon; the length of the current day; as well as information pertaining to when these various bodies will rise above and set below the horizon. In the background, cosmic sounds are played which mirror what you might hear at a space museum.
Tapping the ‘x’, the entire map of space is splayed across the iPad’s open canvas, giving you a viewport into the night sky as you dance about, aiming the iPad in various directions. The effect is pretty incredible, and its surprisingly accurate sense of direction helps you track down your favorite celestial bodies. But even if you don’t know what M31 is (Andromeda), the included learning tools will help you visualize our closest relatives.
Tapping the search button, you can select from constellations, solar systems, messier objects, and stars. Selecting it will display its position in the sky, and tapping the information button brings up relevant information, including convenient Wikipedia entries.
Entering the list view, you can return to Sky Live, but Picture of the Day, Bookmarks, Location, and Settings are also available. Out of these, I think a lot of people will appreciate Picture of the Day, which snatches up some beautiful cosmic photographs with detailed descriptions. And yes, you can export these beautiful photographs for use as iPad wallpaper.
Tapping on location will show your geological position in the world, and you can change your point of view (say from Alaska) to get eyes on a different horizon once you return to the looking glass.
The settings are quite simple, and enable you to view a night mode for serious, distraction free sky viewing. You can also turn off the various sounds and music that chime in the background, which professionals might find uncanny if they’re using Sky Walk as an aid. The brightness indicator is interesting, as it helps to adjust what stars you might really be seeing (to compensate or mimic the amount of light pollution / sky brightness in your area).
I was very pleasantly surprised by what Star Walk had in store, plus just how enthralling it was. This is an application for everyone; parents can use this as a way to connect with their children on a family Friday night; astronomers can use it as an aid in their adventures. We’re giving away three copies to some lucky space travelers, so be sure to check the giveaway below for more information. In the meantime, it’s available on the iTunes App Store for $4.99.
Star Walk is pretty amazing, and we think everyone should have a chance to get in touch with the universe. To enter the giveaway, you must follow the rules below for your chance to win.
- On Twitter, tweet the following message: “Win one of three copies of @starwalk from @macstoriesnet! http://mcstr.net/cdPs93”
- Below, leave a comment with a link to your tweet and a short explanation of why you’d like to win Star Walk.
The contest ends Saturday, June 26th. Good luck!