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Solar System Explorer
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.
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.
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.
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.