Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2019
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Sky Guide

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Awesome astronomy app takes students on a journey through the universe

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
3–12
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Pros: Many ways to view the objects in the sky, multiple filters, a huge stellar and object catalog; can be used without a Wi-Fi signal.

Cons: Optional subscription may be financially prohibitive for full classrooms.

Bottom Line: A quality, affordable way to bring true astronomy study to the classroom, even during the day, with a plethora of viewing options.

Teachers can use Sky Guide in any science or astronomy classroom equipped with iOS devices. Use the app to look at stars and other space objects at night, or even during the day, since it allows you to view what's out in space at any time in any direction. Or, use the time travel option to see how the night sky looked on a certain date in history, visiting the day you were born or seeing what the sky looked like during historical events. You can also change your observation location to be anywhere on the planet, including the opposite hemisphere. If your class is able to use the app at night, use it to identify stars and other objects in the sky, or track satellites in their orbit. Using Sky Guide near dawn or dusk provides the opportunity to see iridium flares.

Teachers can also set up reminders for particular satellite flybys or planet conjunctions, and Sky Guide will remind you to go out and look. Combine iOS's built-in screen recording functionality with the AR mode to create a tour of your local sky to show in class. Use the Today view to note the rising and setting of the moon and all the planets, along with weather and satellite passes. To match the app's view to what the night sky looks like where you are, there's an option to decrease the sky brightness, making it easier to spot the brightest stars. Sky Guide works without Wi-Fi, cell service, or GPS, so, once it's installed, you and your class can use the app anywhere.

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Sky Guide is a beautiful app filled with easy-to-understand reference material on astronomy and the night sky. Students can browse its contents, or aim it at the sky (or the wall, or the floor) and study what they see. Its extensive functionality includes searching for stars, planets, deep space objects, comets, satellites, and more, or students can just hold it up to the sky and tap on what they see to learn details about the object. Layers -- such as labels, constellation markers, and mythology illustrations -- can be turned on and off. A red Night mode is available to help preserve night vision. Notifications can be set for satellite flybys, sun/moon/planet rise and set times, and more.

Students can travel through time with cinematic time controls, seeing what the night sky looked like on certain dates in history. Or they can apply a filter to part of the sky to see what light it emits in different areas of the light spectrum, such as x-ray, gamma ray, ultraviolet, infrared, and more. Sky Guide also lets kids turn on the sound and listen to what the stars would sound like based on their temperature and luminosity. 

An add-on subscription called SUPERMASSIVE provides high-definition zooms, a considerably larger star and deep sky catalog (1.7 billion stars instead of 2.5 million), and several cinematic tours of the night sky. One of the tours highlights all of the Messier objects.

Sky Guide is a well-packaged and well-designed app for learning through exploration, or for more directed lessons. Students can study the night sky, plan to watch satellite flybys, or dig deeper into stars, constellations, nebulae, and comets by browsing for them or just tapping on what catches their eye. Students will learn to identify planets, plus stars and other deep space objects in the night sky. Students can place any of the various filters over what they're seeing to see what light space objects emit outside the visible spectrum. The app also gives each star a sound, based on its temperature and luminosity. Students will learn the difference between brightness and luminosity and learn why a very luminous star might not appear bright in the sky (the concept of apparent magnitude).

Students can read scholarly articles on astronomy topics right inside the app, or check out the calendar that shows upcoming observation opportunities. Students can easily access any objects they've been studying with the "favorites" list, or browse objects by brightness, time of visibility, or any number of other criteria. 

Sky Guide is a fantastic reference for all astronomy experience levels and is useful in any location, since you can easily change the sky brightness in the app to match your current sky view. It's the ultimate resource for the night sky and for planning your night sky study.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The gorgeous, in-depth interface will draw students in and keep them exploring. The ever-changing sky, regular satellite flybys, and planetary conjunctions will keep them returning to the app.

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

Through careful, detailed study, students learn about the universe and what it's made of. They can dig in deep, from distant galaxies to 21st-century satellite flybys.

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

There's plenty of in-app help, making the tool easy to use. If teachers subscribe to the upgrade, they can take students into even deeper study, including cinematic deep space tours.


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