Common Sense Review
Updated February 2013

Solar System Explorer

Visit and explore this beautiful, vast handheld planetarium
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 3
  • Students can pinch to zoom and swipe their fingers across the device screen to explore each planet and its surroundings.
  • Each planet's moons can be explored, and interesting facts about each planet are included with the images.
  • Using the calendar function, students can see just where the planets are today or on any given day, past or future.
  • Students can learn about spacecraft exploring our solar system.
Pros
Tons of info about solar bodies combined with the amazing interactive graphics make for serious engagement.
Cons
Kids without an interest in space may not appreciate the detail or want to explore on their own.
Bottom Line
Because it's so well-produced, it should fascinate any kid even remotely interested in space.
Amanda Bindel
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4
The amazing production value will draw kids in, though they're left on their own to read and reflect on the written information.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4
Information is presented dynamically and beautifully, allowing for potential depth of learning, but kids are left to process it in their own way.
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
Its user interface is mostly intuitive and begs for exploration, which is kind of the point. The lack of guidance works for interested kids but may turn off those who don't find space intriguing.
About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

It would fit beautifully into a lesson on astronomy or space exploration. Project the high-quality images and take students on a tour of the solar system. Kids can access information about planets, major moons, and a few spacecraft, which would make it a great resource for independent or small group research. The calendar feature lets kids see planetary alignment at any time, night or day.

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What's It Like?

Solar System Explorer is a planetarium-quality, high-definition app whose 3D images let kids experience our solar system up close. Starting with an overall view of the entire solar system, kids pinch to zoom and examine planets more closely, rotate to view the planetary rotation from different perspectives, or tap a specific planet to see it up close and in detail. When the whole solar system is on-screen, each planet, major moons, and a few spacecraft are displayed as small icons at the bottom. Kids can click any of these for a closer image. Choosing a planet brings up small icons for each of that planet's moons. Kids can click the “I” (info) button for any object –- planet, moon, or spacecraft –- for more information about it. Tap the calendar icon at the top of the screen and enter a specific date –- today, past, or future –- and see the planetary alignment on that day. Then choose how fast the time progression moves (on the clock), showing how the planets rotate.

Short descriptions are peppered with interesting facts (like the fact that one of Saturn's moons, Mimas, has an enormous crater that makes it look like the Death Star from Star Wars –- even though detailed images of the moon showing the crater weren't available when the movies were made). Whoa.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Kids will learn about the solar system –- all the planets (plus Pluto) and the major moons –- as well as some spacecraft that have explored our solar system. A moving image of the entire solar system or individual planets demonstrates the rotation around the sun at specific dates (past, future, and today).

Examining all the quality photos, kids will truly feel like they're in space. This is a well-produced app that will fascinate kids even remotely interested in space and provide plenty of facts to those who just need information. Students will discover knowledge on their own by exploring, and teachers will find this rich resource a valuable instructional asset.

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