I got a late start on this particular Thing but, it worked to my benefit (how often does that happen?!?). I recently meet with one of my 6th grade teachers to discuss what tools we might use later this month when they come in for library time. They’ll be in the middle of their astronomy unit which reminded me I had some apps I’d been meaning to look into…which also meant I now had a plan for both their upcoming lesson and the App-palooza Thing!
The school iPads all have the apps SkyView Free, Planets and, Moon Globe installed on them. I downloaded these apps to my iPad and started exploring.
If you haven’t checked out this app, you are missing out! It is so easy to use, fun and, educational all at once. It’s an augmented reality app that displays on your device screen the location of stars, planets and other celestial bodies, no matter the time of day. When you hover over constellations the app draws in the picture so you can see, for example, the lion that Leo represents. When you hover over individual celestial bodies a path appears on the screen so you can see where it’s been and where it will be at different times of the day/night. Want to know where Jupiter is in the night sky without spinning around hoping you’ll get lucky and find it? Just type it into the search field and an arrow will appear on the screen, leading your device across the sky until you find it. When you hover over an object in the night sky you can also get additional information about it. For example, did you know the moon moves about 1.5 inches away from the Earth every year?
I decided I’ll pair the students into teams, giving each team an iPad to work with. After briefly showing them how to use the app and its basic features, I’ll handout a checklist I made for the activity. The checklist asks them to use the app to try to locate different constellations and other celestial bodies as well as answer questions about them. Short of locating multiple telescopes, hauling our class on a night field trip away from the city and hoping for a clear night, this app is the best way to stargaze with a class.
Any student pairs that get done early can explore these next two apps:
The Planets app is similar to SkyView but doesn’t offer augmented reality. An interesting feature available in Planets that isn’t available in SkyView is the ability to view Gamma Rays, X-rays, Hydrogen Rays, Infrared Rays, Microwaves and, Radio Waves. Using both apps to view the night sky could help students round out there knowledge and understanding of the night sky.
Moon Globe allows you to explore the terrain of the moon as well as where different spacecrafts have landed on the moon. You can also view the moon as a globe or as it would appear through a telescope on Earth. You can even change your location on Earth and see how that changes what you would see through the telescope when viewing the moon. I think students will be interested to see how many terrain features the moon has and where the majority of spacecrafts have landed (I myself was surprised that the were on the dark side of the moon). I think it will also be fun for them to experiment with how their location on Earth affects their view of the moon/night sky.
I’m so excited to show students these apps and see them explore the night sky!