Star Walk Gets Astronomical Make Over
Star Walk Gets Astronomical Make Over

The popular star map application for iPhone by Vito Technology has received some pretty big updates in terms of user interface and information. The newest version (1.2) of Star Walk still has the same stargazing abilities as the original Star Walk, along with the time lapse tool, same ease of navigation and stellar graphics, but now includes some enhancements that improve its overall function.

Breaking down the updates to Star Walk, changes include: the addition of meteor showers that can be viewed in motion by setting the date, an enhancement to the interface by improving the viewing comparisons of the bigger, brighter stars with the smaller ones, and a Wikipedia link function for specific, detailed information. All three of these improvements lend to the overall informative function of this app, making studying the night sky for the novice astronomer both entertainingly high-tech and educational.

The addition of meteor shower observation is pretty insightful. Set the date forward (or back) to the date of a certain meteor shower and then zoom in and watch the show. Granted, you would have to know a bit about these astronomical occurrences, such as the date and general location in the sky, but the concept is a truly nice addition.

Of the three upgrades, the instant Wikipedia access is by far the most useful for information junkies. A “W” icon appears that will take you to Wikipedia articles on specific stars, planets, Messier objects, constellations and meteor showers. Perhaps not the definitive source on the subject matter, but we all know Wikipedia provides additional useful links and the information is instant – no searching necessary. The only draw back to this feature is the inability to return directly to the Star Walk app, but rather close the page, return to the menu, and start the app again. It’s only a few extra taps, but for the hopelessly impatient, it may come off as cumbersome navigation. (This is an Apple-imposed limitation that hinders many apps, and one we hope will be changed someday soon.)

Overall the upgraded version of Star Walk only proves to enhance what was already a well-designed app that can only expand the average person’s knowledge of all things celestial. The best features remain intact, including the ability to view the night sky from your current location or choose any other location in the world, the time lapse function and the viewing of lunar phases, but the additions to Star Walk polish off a terrific educational tool.

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