Thursday, May 20, 2010
StarWalk for the iPad
Posted by Jeff Campbell in "Apple Software (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad)" @ 08:00 AM
Star Walk for the iPhone from Vito Technology has been out for awhile, and I've used it many times to see what was going on in the sky above me. It is a fantastic astronomy app for the iPhone, so I was pretty excited when they announced the version for the iPad. It is available now in the iTunes Store for $4.99 USD [affiliate link], and if you have used Star Walk for the iPhone ($2.99 USD in the iTunes Store), this will be very familiar to you, albeit on a much larger scale. The app really transitions well from the iPhone to the iPad, and in my opinion is much better on the iPad as it uses the larger screen to full advantage. As you can see from the opening screen above, called the "Sky Live", it starts out by giving you a brief overview of what is happening in the sky above you for a particular day, including sunrise, sunset, moon phase, etc. But it also offers much more, with the 3D graphics you are used to on the iPhone on a larger scale.
Figure 1: The Star Spotter screen with several options.
Once you close the opening info screen, it takes you to the "Star Spotter" view screen shown above. This is where the built in digital compass works with the magnetometer to orient the screen to show you the view from the direction you are facing. I was a bit concerned on how well it would work, based on some of the comments on the iTunes page about this app and the orientation not working correctly. But all you have to do is orient your iPad first by tilting from landscape to portrait view a few times. This helps the digital compass recalibrate and in my case it worked fine after doing this. I did find, however, there is a bit of a delay for the compass to start working again and orient the screen to the direction I was facing if I left the Star Spotter screen. For example, if I tapped the Constellation Search icon and found out some info on a particular constellation, and then came back to the Star Spotter screen, it took a few seconds for the digital compass to start working again. Minor inconvenience.
Figure 2: The options when you tap the lower right icon.
As I mentioned above, you can find out about constellations by tapping on the icon in the lower left, or you can get to the options shown in figure 2 by tapping on the icon in the lower right of the screen. Some of the options listed are Picture of the Day, Sky Live screen, Location and Help. If you tap on the upper right icon, it will display the date and time, as well as a scroll bar along the right side of the screen. By sliding the scroll bar up and down, you can go into the future, or back to the past, to see how the sky looked or will look.
Figure 3: What the sky will look like like in about 9 days after scrolling into the future.
This is a very well done application that was great on the iPhone and even better on the iPad. You may have a problem with the brightness of the iPad (even with the brightness set at the lowest level) and the effect on your night vision, but it wasn't that bad for me and after a few seconds my night vision returned to normal. It is perfect for figuring out just what is up there based on your location, and it provides a wealth of knowledge for the amateur astronomer in you.
Jeff Campbell is a fan of all things Apple, an X-boxer (the 360 kind) and geek. He works as a floor supervisor in a 911 center in the Portland, OR area, and lives in a small town just north of Mt. Hood with his wife, two kids, two dogs, a snake and a tarantula. Oh, and a three legged cat named "Tres."
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