Common Sense Review
Updated February 2013

Mobile Observatory

Impressive tool for stargazing and identifying objects in the sky
Common Sense Rating 5
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 5
  • The app homepage shows the options to explore in a large, easy-to-understand format.
  • Kids can view constellation maps by pointing the device at the night sky.
  • Kids can plan their sky watching in the Events section, which lists noteworthy occurrences in the next days, weeks, or months.
  • In Top View, kids can see, in current time or on specific past or future dates, where the planets are in orbit.
  • Under the Solar System section, kids can check the location of a planet, read a bit about the planet, and find the planet in the sky, guided by red arrows.
The wealth of information about celestial objects and events is exciting and impressive.
Some of the language may be difficult to understand for astronomy novices.
Bottom Line
It's an excellent hands-on astronomy reference tool.
Amanda Bindel
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 5
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Not all of the content is easily accessible for kids, but those who already have an interest in astronomy will find it fascinating.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

Empowered kids drive much of the experience themselves by pointing the device, reading, and deciding when they want to learn more.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

The amount of information contained in the app can be overwhelming, but the tutorial at startup orients kids to the full experience.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

It would fit beautifully into a lesson plan on astronomy or space exploration, but kids will need a bit of guidance first. Since Sky View can be used in daytime mode, kids can even see the stars in broad daylight. The graphs and charts offer kids a wealth of information about planets, the moon, and upcoming events, and these could also serve as teaching models for conveying information graphically.

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What's It Like?

Mobile Observatory is an app encouraging kids to explore, discover, and observe the skies. The homepage features large buttons displaying a dozen options for exploring celestial bodies. In Sky View and Live View, kids point the device at the sky and see a sky map that labels the stars or constellations they’re seeing. In Solar System, they can also choose a specific planet or object, and red arrows show them where to point the device to find that object in the sky. In Events and Tonight's Best, they can find out about interesting celestial events such as eclipses, meteor showers, and planetary visibility, and add them to their calendar. The observatory also includes details about planets and other celestial bodies.

Further menu options also include Top View (for an overhead look at the solar system), Objects (for details of rise and set times of celestial objects), Twilight, Moon, and Eclipses (for information about each), Favorites, and Object Database.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Putting Mobile Observatory into kids' hands is like giving them full access to an observatory and planetarium along with a docent to guide them on their self-paced tour. The amount of information is mind-boggling, and the options for viewing and learning about the night sky are impressive.

It should be said that this is not a made-for-kids app; rather, it’s a real-world tool for astronomy buffs. It includes information that may be difficult to follow without some prior knowledge (degree of location, rise, transit, and set times of celestial bodies). The descriptions of the planets and other stars are written in an easy-to-understand style that older elementary kids will appreciate, but the observation specs included in the app are geared more for middle or high school kids who have had some instruction in astronomy and night sky coordinates.

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