Last updated: 21 July 2009
Star Walk v1.5
VITO Technology, Inc
Star Walk is an official product of the IYA2009. There is also a Windows Mobile version (see the VITO Technology web site). VITO Technology provided a "promo code" for the iPhone version. It is a 22.2MB download from the iTunes App Store. There is a short PDF manual available at the VITO Technology web site. The manual is essentially one page of instructions describing the on-screen buttons and how to use the app. And that is really all that is required.
Quoting from the web site:
Star Walk is a realistic guide for stargazing, featuring annotated star map. Give you the chance to travel through time and space, observing future and past astronomical events from any place on the Earth. Star Walk is astronomy for everybody.
Deep sky objects (Messier)
I have to agree with their description. The display is really very nice, easy to use, and understand.
When you launch the app, the display is forced to landscape. That works fine and provides a good view of the star map. The display has four buttons, one in each corner of the display, which are used for app settings, date/time, search, and information (which only appears when appropriate). You use your finger to move around the sky. You can change the view direction, and even rotate the sky. You pinch to change the zoom level. You can zoom in quite a bit. Here is a screen shot showing the maximum zoom on the area of M57 in Lyra:
This is good for use at the finderscope or when using binoculars. Of course, this is not what you would actually see but the positions are correct.
If the Sun is showing on the display, there is a faint "lens flare" visible. Nice!
Touching an object will cause the Info button to appear in the upper lefthand corner. When you touch the Info button, information about that object (words and an image) will appear. If there is a "W" showing on the info panel, then touching the W button will launch Safari and take you to a Wikipedia article on that object for more information. Again, a nice feature. When you relaunch Star Walk the display is essentially back to where you were when Safari was launched. You can "bookmark" objects for later viewing. There is a "night mode" you can select that turns the display red. You can also change the screen brightness level from within the app. The star map is a full sky map. So you can look below the horizon. I did find that dragging the sky to view different portions somewhat different from what I expected. Some times the display would rotate around the central object when I really wanted to view something off-screen to the left or rotate. Changing the time would solve that problem. You do that by touching the Clock button in the upper righthand corner of the display:
The purpose of Star Walk is oriented to showing the sky "at the current" time (or whatever time you have selected). Fortunately, selecting a date/time is easy and you can even animate the display by flicking in the time panel to start it scrolling. Cool! You can even view the changing phases of the Moon by selecting the Moon and then tapping the Clock icon. When you change the date or time the phase is changed:
You can search for objects by touching the Search button in the lower lefthand corner. As you type, the search results display is narrowed down. When you see what you are looking for, you touch the name of the object and the star map display is centered on that object. You can easily change your location using the city list or let the app get its current location from the iPhone.
So, what's lacking from Star Walk? It would be nice to have a higher zoom level with more stars and DSOs in the data base. But that would change (expand, actually) the target audience for the app. I found it somewhat disorienting to not have the cardinal directions (N, NE, E, SE, etc) displayed at all times. The labels only appear when the horizon line is visible. But as a learning tool and as a general use sky charting application, Star Walk works well and is a nice addition to the planetarium applications available for the iPhone. It is deservedly highly rated on the iPhone App Store (currently 4.5 stars out of 5).
If you are looking for a beautiful iPhone planetarium application, Star Walk is definitely worth a look. It does not have all the "advanced" features of the higher-end (so called "Pro") applications for the desktop and mobile devices but it does provide a wealth of useful astronomical information in a small package. Use it to learn the night sky. Use it to see what's visible tonight. Use it to show people what they are looking at through the eyepiece of your telescope.
LATE BREAKING NEWS!
A "Moon Landing Edition" update to Star Walk has been submitted to Apple for posting on the iTunes App Store. It has a Digital Compass for the iPhone 3GS and a Help Guide upgrade.
Go back to the ETX Home Page.