A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
Kids can learn to identify objects in the night sky as well as learn about upcoming astronomical events. The mobile observatory includes information about planets and objects in our solar system as well as location assistance for finding the objects in the sky and point-and-identify capabilities. Kids can point the device at the sky and see a map that labels the stars or constellations they are seeing. They can also choose a specific planet or object and be guided by red arrows where to point the device to find that object in the sky. Kids can learn through real-world practice with this excellent hands-on astronomy tool.
Ease of Play
A written tutorial orients kids to the controls, but much of the interaction uses sensor controls, which can be a little tricky to get used to. The user interface for Mobile Observatory is one of the easier to navigate for astronomy newbies.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mobile Observatory uses GPS-mapping of your current location to find and identify objects in the night sky. GPS can be disabled easily in the location settings, and kids can instead enter Google Maps coordinates or their city. They can use the map to identify objects in the night sky by pointing the device at them and seeing the labeled items in the area, or they can search for specific objects, being directed by red arrows to the object in the sky.
Is It Any Good?
Putting Mobile Observatory into kids' hands is like giving them full access to an observatory and planetarium along with a docent to guide them on their self-paced tour. The amount of information is mind-boggling, and the options for viewing and learning about the night sky are impressive. Some of the information is more suited to amateur (or even professional) astronomers than casual stargazers, but even the backyard sky watcher will find useful information that is easily accessible and mostly understandable.
This is not a made-for-kids app; rather it is a real-world tool for astronomy buffs. It includes information that may be difficult to follow without some prior knowledge (degree of location, rise, transit, and set times of celestial bodies). The descriptions of the planets and other stars are written in an easy-to-understand style that older elementary kids will appreciate, but the observation specs included in the app are geared more for middle- or high-school kids who have had some instruction in astronomy and night sky coordinates.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
STEM: Apps, TV, and More for Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate