Stellarium Mobile Sky Map

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Stellarium Mobile Sky Map App Poster Image
Mobile planetarium brings night sky up close, beautifully.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids will learn to identify constellations, planets, stars, and nebulae in the night sky as well as become familiar with how various cultures viewed and named what they saw in the sky. The amount of information contained in this mobile planetarium is nearly as vast as the sky, so kids will need to restrain themselves from labeling every option at once, lest nothing be discernible. They can view the constellations, with grid lines and artistic renderings and names, and then add in one of the navigational grid lines, or choose another of the many options. Stellarium Mobile is a beautiful, well-developed app for exploring the sky.

Ease of Play

Users will need to explore the app's functions on their own, as there is no tutorial. The pictorial icons do include a brief description when selected.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stellarium Mobile Sky Map is a functioning planetarium on a mobile device. The app uses GPS to show the night sky right from an exact location. The mobile version is based on the desktop version of Stellarium's open-source software and was adapted for touch screens. There are no instructions or tutorials for use, so users will need to explore the app on their own. Kids will need some knowledge of the night sky and some guidance in order to fully appreciate this app.

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What's it about?

STELLARIUM MOBILE SKY MAP brings the night sky up close, letting kids identify exactly what they are seeing from their own backyard as they gaze into the sky. Kids can choose to see line drawings of the constellations laid over the sky, and can add the names of the constellations or even the constellation art that makes the names of each make visual sense. Kids will see the sketch of a Pegasus drawn over the lines connecting the stars that make up the constellation Pegasus, for example.

Is it any good?

In a growing field of night sky apps, Stellarium has a reputation for its well-revered desktop version. The mobile version does not disappoint, with its numerous options. Kids can choose which features to label (planets, constellations, nebulae) and can show or hide grid lines, like the equatorial grid or the Azimuthal grid. They can turn on or off sensor controls that move the sky view as they move the device. The search function is tricky as it uses the Android-predictive keyboard rather than allowing straightforward typing.

While younger kids may be able to enjoy parts of the app with a parent's help, they'll really need to have some prior knowledge about the night sky to get the most out of Stellarium. Overall, it's a beautiful way to explore the stars.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Visit a remote area without city or suburban lights so kids can get a view of the vastness of the night sky.

  • Make a trip to a planetarium or observatory and talk with kids about the technology involved in gathering the information available in their handheld device.

  • Check out the free computer version of Stellarium.

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