Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013
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Stellarium Mobile Sky Map

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Beautiful mobile planetarium, extensive learning opportunities

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Grades
6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Overlay labels help kids get a deeper understanding of constellations and the night sky.

Cons: The search function is tricky and not intuitive, and the app may overwhelm kids new to astronomy.

Bottom Line: It truly brings the night sky up close, beautifully and with accessible, informative details.

You should know that Stellarium isn’t designed to introduce kids to astronomy; they’ll need to have some knowledge of the night sky to fully appreciate the app. Once you've given an overview of the stars/space, however, it's totally possible to work the app into your curriculum.

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Stellarium Mobile Sky Map is a mobile astronomy app featuring touch-screen navigation and GPS positioning to view the night sky. Kids can open the app and immediately see which constellations, stars, and planets are in the sky above them. In sensor mode, they can point the device directly at the areas they’re curious about and see the names of planets, constellations, major stars, and nebulae. An interesting feature: the ability to customize the names based upon different star lore. Kids can choose to view the names of stars, planets, and constellations from Western (default), Aztec, Chinese, Egyptian, Inuit, Korean, Lakota, or Maori traditions.

Kids can choose in the options menu which items to display and which to name. The amount of information contained in this mobile planetarium is nearly as vast as the sky, so kids will need to restrain themselves from labeling every option at once, lest nothing be discernible. They can view the constellations, with grid lines and artistic renderings and names, and then add in one of the navigational grid lines, or choose another of the many options.

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The renderings are realistic and beautiful, but even more features set this mobile planetarium apart from the crowd. First, the app was developed by the same team that developed the well-respected desktop software Stellarium. This mobile version includes the extensive database of more than 600,000 stars, as well as illustrations and line drawings for the constellations.

Second, kids with an interest in programming may be especially drawn to Stellarium in either version because it uses open-source code. Last, kids can read about constellation names from 12 different cultures as well as a bit of history of astronomy in each of the cultures. So informative, so cool. Just a note: If kids use the search function, they need to know that the search uses Android-predictive text rather than a traditional type and search.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

The graphics are beautiful, and the subject matter is breathtaking for kids with a keen interest in astronomy. Kids will have a lot of influence over the experience.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Kids will learn through self-directed exploration the names of stars and constellations. Overlay labels help kids get a deeper understanding of the night sky's vastness.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Users will need to explore the app's functions on their own, as there is no tutorial, though the pictorial icons include a brief description when selected.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

2
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Featured review by
Jennifer C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Carson High School
Carson City, NV
2
Like Google Earth for the night sky!

As with most apps, this tool could be used effectively but its effectiveness relies upon the creativity of the teacher. If teachers create story problems, measurement challenges, real life problems to solve using the application, it will make a good teaching tool. A teacher would need to invest time developing lessons that support and incorporate the application.

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