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Star Walk 2: iPad app makes the night sky look better than ever

Star Walk 2: iPad app makes the night sky look better than ever

When Star Walk launched it was one of those "only on the iPad" kind of apps. Since then many have used it as their digital window to space.

Vito Technologies, which built the original, is back with Star Walk 2. While it may not seem like there is much to improve on, the developers have taken the time to find enough enhancements and new features to justify an entirely new app.

Like the original, Star Walk 2 works by pointing it at the sky to get a real-time view of celestial bodies. As you move it around the app constantly adjusts to show what is out there beyond Earth.

At first glance Star Walk 2 is definitely cleaner and feels snappier compared to the original, especially when navigating through the menus. The sequel also elevates the concept from the original by including more content that will engage those who are casual observers of the sky as well as those with a heavy interest in astronomy.

There are several display options. You can change up how stark the constellations appear, either drawing subtle lines between them or a more animated character. Star Walk 2 also adds in soothing space music and various sound effects, which you can toggle off if they are not to your liking. Visual effect choices are also present for the atmosphere, horizon, and a body of water that floats across the screen.

The app also uses augmented reality--just tap the camera icon and Star Walk 2 will overlay its virtual view of space on top of what your camera sees.

Vito Technology says it is the first app to have three-dimensional representations of planetary nebulae. You can swing them around with your finger and also get detailed articles about their history and myths they have been linked to throughout time.

A fun feature to make its way over from the original is Time Machine, which will explore the map of the night sky from years past or into the future. Just turn the dial and watch the skies go back in time.

A very cool search function is front and center just by tapping the magnifying glass icon. There are tabs for satellites, constellations, planets, and other deep space objects.

Sky Live gives real-time statistics about the visibility of the moon and other planets in the solar system. You can swipe the moons for a more detailed view of how much you can see when the moon is when waning and waxing.

While the app is $3, additional in-app upgrades are available if you want to take a deeper dive into the universe. The best deal is to go for the $2 all-in-one bundle that gives you everything: a constellations upgrade, satellites, deep sky objects, and an extended solar system.

For example, the Deep Sky Objects upgrade will reveal certain nebulae and galaxies when pinching and zooming to the outer reaches of space. The satellites upgrade is handy for finding out what human-built objects are floating out there in space. It's always a little bothersome to pay for me content after already buying an app, but over time you will be glad to have the full package.

Another strength is how Star Walk 2 can be as complex or simple as you wish. It could easily be shared with children or in an elementary-age setting to give young ones a chance to see what is up there or to learn about the planets and solar system. It certainly would be ideal in a classroom, making the universe come to life far more than just what a textbook can do.

Bottom line

If you are satisfied with the first Star Walk upgrading is not a necessity, as the original app still works very well. Yet for $3 the wow factor of a nicely polished Star Walk 2 is pretty difficult to turn down.

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