Solar WalkFall 2012 Mobile Apps
Imagine the model of a solar system from your elementary school classroom: all the planets lined up, with a flashlight as the sun. Now imagine that instead of just viewing or holding this model, you could travel through it, zooming from one planet to the next, getting a perspective of size from one to the next. Solar Walk gives you the chance to interact with this model, in a beautifully interactive way. You can zoom out where our own sun is just a dot in the galaxy, zooming in to see solar flares on that same sun. Here, you can understand how large our galaxy is, and how small our own earth is.
This brilliant app utilized the exploratory capabilities of the iPad to their full extent, much in the way that Vito Technology's previous app Star Walk did. Users can zoom in and out of a 3D model of the solar system, pausing to examine photo-realistic models of all of the planets, moons, and even satellites. The modeling is exquisite. Earth even rotates in real time, and on the side of the planet that is currently in darkness, you can see lights glimmering in the cities. The interface is incredibly intuitive. Tap a planet to zoom in, swipe to spin it around and examine it from all angles. Easy to use menus display interesting facts about each planet. The accompanying educational videos are solid and make good use of the models to demonstrate some hard to visualized concepts, such as what happens during a total solar eclipse. Occasionally the videos refer to advanced terms like "Prime meridian" without really explaining them for newcomers, so it may be helpful for younger children to have an adult help them define those terms as they explore the app's contents. It's hard to imagine a child using this app without it inspiring wonder and curiosity in them. Overall, this is a fun exploratory tool for kids and parents who would like to take a tour of the solar system, either together or on their own. Pair it with our other ideas for young stargazers for maximum effect!