What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sky Map is wonderful tool for fostering an appreciation of astronomy that makes planned or impromptu family sky observation nights easy. This Google-powered app features layers accessible through the device and on-screen menus, easy search and find, manual or automatic orientation, a gallery of Hubble images, night mode, and time travel. The only thing you need to provide is comfortable reclining chairs, cozy blankets, hot chocolate, a beautiful night sky, and a dash of curiosity.
What's it about?
Using network (default), GPS, or manual location, kids can either angle and rotate their device to view the celestial sphere in all directions or swipe around any direction they wish using a handy orange horizon line and cardinal directions for orientation. A tap-activated on-screen menu allows users to select layers, toggle between automatic and manual navigation modes, and zoom in or out. The menu offers search, settings, time travel, night mode, a Hubble image gallery, and tight-text help.
Is it any good?
Sky Map is a versatile, easy-to-use planetarium in the palm of your hand -- now that's power. It even does something traditional planetariums could never do: Hold your device at the floor, and you'll see the southern hemisphere just where it ought to be (for all you northern hemispherites out there). Kids can see stars, constellations, galaxies, planets, meteor showers, and Messier objects (learning opportunity here) in regular or special night mode, which changes all text and lines to red for easy viewing. The Hubble gallery hits you with those surreal but real astronomical images easily located -- along with any other object -- through a simple ring and arrow guidance technique. The time travel feature could have scientific as well as historical uses.
The only items missing are constellation images, for instance, a Swan around Cygnus, like those provided by the similar iOS app Star Chart, perhaps a slightly better layout for help text, and some background information about the study of the stars for blossoming observers. Still, it's a fantastic app.
Families can talk about...
Schedule a family sky watch night. Encourage the whole family to set up a viewing area -- and prepare goodies.
Research good days, times, or objects to view.