App review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013
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Cool features enhance this powerful mobile planetarium

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Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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6–12 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.
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Pros: Quality photos plus tightly packed information that's accessible to kid users.

Cons: Mastering the compass and controls can be tricky..

Bottom Line: This professional-grade tool with beautiful, instructive images is an excellent resource for classrooms.

The Plus and Pro versions do not offer features that would be helpful for most middle or high school classrooms. Their main feature is the ability to manipulate certain telescopes wirelessly, setting them to the right coordinates to view certain objects, which is great if your school is equipped with a planetarium, but not super helpful otherwise. That said, letting kids explore space with this app could be an excellent use of classroom time. Put kids in groups and assign them a planet or star, then see how much research they can put together in a class period to present at the end.

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SkySafari is a point-and-identify sky map that includes the major planets and moons; tens of thousands of stars; 220 of the best-known star clusters; and nebulae, galaxies, asteroids, comets, and more. Kids need to enable the compass on their device (which is on the bottom of the screen when the app is open) and point the device at the sky. They can also view the night sky for any time up to 100 years in the past or future. Using the search function, kids can find specific objects in the night sky, guided by arrows showing them where to point the device.

Standout feature: Tonight's Best, which lists the objects in the night sky that are best for viewing that evening.

Students can learn about astronomy by viewing planets, stars, and celestial bodies; searching for specific objects of interest; or looking at noteworthy astronomical sightings in that night's sky. If kids want a detailed picture of the movement of objects in the sky over time, they can view them by year, month, day, hour, minute, or second for 100 years into the past and future. Even the surliest teen would have to admit that's pretty darn cool.

The images -- from NASA space missions, the Hubble Space Telescope, and astro-photographers –- are beautiful. In addition to viewing the night sky –- past, present, and future –- students can read details about each planet, galaxy, star, and object.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

The beautiful images draw stargazers in. Kids control most of their own experience with the app, adding to the engagement factor.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Kids are in the driver's seat for what they learn and how they discover it; motivated students will feel empowered to explore to their hearts' content. Info about our solar system and beyond is relevant and deep.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Controls require some maturity to master, but the help information offers a quality explanation of terms and features.

Common Sense reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Craig M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Big Sky High School
Missoula, United States
Sky Safari puts the sky at your fingertips
I've been using planetarium software for display of Earth's sky for at least 12 years. I started with RedShift, then went to Starry Night, and now I'm at Sky Safari. It's got all the features I need at a great price, and is available for iOS. Overall it seems to be less processor intensive and faster, and it seems geared toward the touch-screen generation. Everything pops and is very smooth, from lines to objects to illustrations. I immediately took to the interface with no problems, having had lots of ...
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