The other night, I dragged my kids outside in their pajamas to show them Jupiter and Venus and felt so smart, considering that the only thing I can reliably find on my own in the cosmos is the moon. But thanks to one cool app, I already sound like an astronomy pro, even if I can’t pronounce half of the names of the stars out there.

Update: Read about the Star Walk 2 app: It’s out of this world. Literally.

Star Walk app for the iPad makes my cynical adult eyes widen to the size of saucers (or moons?)  in wonder over what is above me. And while I’ve always enjoyed looking up to figure out if what I’m seeing is a star, a planet, or–nope, it’s moving!–a plane, this app is like having a cheat sheet to the cosmos.

What makes Star Walk so amazing is its augmented reality view of the sky which has gorgeous clarity and amazing detail. See something up above? Just point your iPad up at it and your screen becomes the sky with labels on it (minus trees, planes and your kid’s rabbit-ear fingers). I can even choose the level of detail I want to see—-zoom in for a close-up or include even the things that aren’t visible to the naked eye. And it works day or night, and can even show you what’s on the other half of the world if you point your tablet at the ground.
Along with constellations which I can finally pretend to “see”, Star Walk maps out individual stars, deep space, and satellites so you can try to wave at the International Space Station when it is near.
The background music is a bit ethereal, but that can be easily silenced. And I did have one friend who claims it crashed her device, though I’ve had no issues at all. For me, it’s been worth every penny of the $4.99 price, even if I will never be able to tell my Cabalrai from my Calaeno
Star Walk app for iPad is available as well as Star Walk for iPhone … though I recommend the larger-format iPad for this app.