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iTunes New Music Releases

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Quick Look Review

Star Walk: A Planetarium for the iPhone

Star Walk 1.1 from Vito Technology for the iPhone and iPod touch is a guide to the night sky, very similar to the traditional programs such as TheSkyX and Starry Night. It has great graphics, the ability to go forward and back in time, and has an informative catalog of deep sky objects.

The program is intended more for the curious who may be out at night and want to identify objects in the sky. It has a night mode, with red illumination, so the display won't ruin the user's night adaption.

Star Walk 1

Star Walk 1.1 (22 Dec 2008, 9:13 PM. MST, Southeast)

Basically, the program is operated by dragging the display until the desired compass direction is in the middle of the horizontal display. Then the user can two finger pinch or expand to zoom in on an object of interest. Touching the info icon then brings up technical data on the object in a pleasingly technical display in the style of green terminal text on black. All with a low-key sound effect.

The program follows protocol and politely asks if it can use the current location, and then shows what the sky above the horizon looks like. Of course, in the day time, few celestial objects can be seen. A vertical tape like clock on the right allows the user to move ahead and see what the night sky has in store for any given time.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to control far far in the future (or past) the program can go, but that's a feature normally used in the desktop apps. This app is geared more to just tonight, and that's agreeable.

Since this is a quick look review, I didn't do any tests on the accuracy of the app, but I did compare the night view for tonight, at 9:13 P.M. MST with TheSkyX Student edition just for an initial check. (Note the azimuth is not quite lined up here, so there's nothing wrong with the programs.)

 

TheSkyX

TheSkyX Student (22 Dec 2008, 9:13 PM. MST, Southeast)

Star Walk is quite bit more dramatic in in its display of objects in order to jazz up the program and make it more inviting to touch an object and find out more. Users who live in a moderately sized city will not see anything like the detail shown thanks to atmospheric and light pollution. Even those in crystal clear, dark New Mexico or Arizona skies won't see what Star Walk displays, but I will grant that the effect is more artistic and user oriented than any attempt to mislead the user. If anything, the effect is to whet one's appetite for darker skies.

In addition to being a casual guide for those sitting on the porch in the evening, the program can also be used indoors as an introductory tour guide to the heavens. For many, after putting the program through its paces on the couch, I suspect that a trip to the library or book store to find out more will be the next step. That's very good indeed.

Amateur astronomers with access to a serious telescope, a notebook computer, and, say, Starry Night Pro won't find the program awfully useful for their work. On the other hand, it could come in very handy, when out on a date, to impress the other person with the wonders of the night sky.

In all these respects, the program does what it's intended to do: inspire and inform. The only problem noted was that there should be a way to control the rate at which the sky moves when using finger gestures. The motion can get confusing and a little out of control at times.

Given the technical nature of the program, I believe the price is very fair. (No rating is given for Quick Look reviews. "3" is the default.)

Just The Facts

Star Walk 1.1 from Vito Technology

MSRP US$4.99

Pros:

Great graphics, easy to use, detailed data on deep sky objects, a search function, night view mode

Cons:

Touch screen control can be too dramatic, hard to get accustomed to.

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