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Science Class and the Star Walk iPad App

The best science apps created for the iPad are those geared toward the teaching of astronomy and celestial exploration. With the Star Walk iPad app, science students can use the iPad's built-in accelerometer and GPS information system to simply point to the sky to obtain vast updated information about where they are looking.

In this activity, science students use the Star Walk iPad app to explore the sky for recognizable celestial objects and identify them.

Exploring celestial mysteries
Submitted by Dr. Randy Yerrick, professor of science education, State University of New York at Buffalo
Grade level 4th- to 12th-grade astronomy
Objectives Navigate the sky for recognizable celestial objects; identify and name constellations, stars, galaxies, and planets.
Apps/tools iPad 2 (or higher), iOS 5.1 (or higher), Star Walk app
Materials needed n/a

With the Star Walk iPad app, celestial navigation is made simple through the interactive interfaces that allow the user to turn on and off the available layers of information when pointing at the night sky.

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Teaching with the Star Walk app can be as easy as taking an independent evening stroll with the self-lit app in hand and noting the relative positions of the objects in the sky. At the same time, this app adds a robust environment to explore important questions such as

  • Does the sun really rise in the east?

    • Does that ever change?

  • Where do all the planets appear in the sky?

    • How can you tell a planet from a star or galaxy?

  • Can people in the Southern Hemisphere see the same stars as people in the Northern, Eastern, or Western hemispheres?

  • Where do stars go during the day?

The power of this app can be seen in a very simple activity for children up through adulthood. Ask students, “How many planets are there? More important, how do you know?”

Have students point out any objects in the sky that they think are planets, and before they use Star Walk, ask them to point to any they can see. Ask them to draw where those objects would appear at night, and explain what they would look like.

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