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Explore Space with the Star Walk App for iPad

A purely astronomy-oriented app, Star Walk brings the heavens straight down to your iPad. It has several features, but when you first open it, you'll be asked for your current location. Once you've given the app permission to use Location Services, you're presented with a map of the stars that moves as your iPad moves.

Wondering what star (or planet) you're looking at? Point your iPad at it and you can get the star's name and see if it's part of a constellation. Tap the i button to zoom in on the star and get detailed information about its makeup, historical information on how cultures have viewed it or named it (where applicable), how far away it is, and more.

This feature is called Star Spotter, and it works by tapping into your iPad's GPS, compass, and accelerometer abilities.

Of course, you can also just touch and drag this map around to look for and examine whatever stars (and planets) you'd like. And if you want to be shown a particular constellation, tap the magnifying glass in the lower-left corner of the screen. Constellations that are visible in your hemisphere are highlighted with brighter text. The constellations listed in grey text aren't visible, but Star Walk will still show them to you.

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Stars below the horizon aren't visible to you, while those above are. Well, more or less. Intervening buildings, hills, mountains, and even trees, might limit what you can see, but the horizon line is updated in real time just like the rest of the night sky.

You can pinch and zoom in on this map to get a close-up view of stars you'd never be able to see with your naked eye. If you can see it in Star Walk, though, you can get at least some basic information, like its name, position, visual magnitude, and so on.

In the lower-right corner of the Star Walk screen is an index-like icon, and that's where you access the rest of this app's features. For instance, Live Sky gives you sunrise and sunset information, a track of the moon's current, recent, and near-future phases, and rising and setting information for any planets that will be visible in the sky today. Tap the arrow keys next to today's date and you can go backward and forward in the calendar for historical and future information.

Other features include the ability to take a snapshot of the night sky and save it as a bookmark, and you can also find your position on Earth with the Location feature.

What you can do with it: see the night sky in real time, get information about the stars you can see (and some you can't), view the Picture of the Day, and learn about the constellations that stargazers have identified throughout history.

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