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Star Gazing with Star Walk App iPhone Astronomy

I’m a relatively recent convert to the cult of the iPhone. I resisted for a long, long time. Then I got one and exactly one week later it was stolen / lost at a Maximo Park gig. For a year I went back to my old phone, which didn’t even have a camera on it, but recently my lovely friend Scotty gave me his hand me down as he upgraded to iPhone 4, and I have to confess I’m hooked.

Mind you, I don’t like using it as a phone. I think it’s terrible to make or receive calls on (but that could be a Vodafone rather than iPhone issue). But what I do love are the Apps. I love playing Scrabble on the bus, attempting to do a budget with the iXpenseIt app, and RunPee is a lot of fun to have at the movies. But my favourite is the one I downloaded yesterday. The Star Walk App.

Yes, yes, now that I’ve done my research, I realise it’s been around for a couple of years. And apparently it’s used in some Apple ad I’ve never seen. But I first heard about the Star Walk App through an article in the New York Times by Bob Tedeschi this week.

When I saw the name Star Walk, at first I thought it was some tacky guide to movie star homes. Then I read on, and when Bob explained that it allows you to “Point your phone toward the heavens and this app identifies all you see — constellations, planets, individual stars — in brilliant clarity” my heart leapt.

Being able to look up at the stars and know which ones I’m looking at is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I love being able to point out the Southern Cross to friends visiting Australia for the first time, and wished I could just as easily recognise my sign of Aquarius, or pick out a friend’s star sign for them.

While I haven’t attended any night classes on the topic (which would no doubt have helped me along) I have tried in the past to figure it out. I even bought a “Skywatch Starwheel” from the ABC store, which looks like this…

David Ellyard's Starwatch Skywheel

… and filled me with hope. But despite my heading out onto my rooftop on a clear, star filled night, I found it difficult to latch onto which handful of stars made up which constellation. Even when I did crack it, if I came out the next night without the wheel I was once again lost.

In the end, I was tempted to follow Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s lead and make up my own names for them. Buffy fans will remember when Willow and Tara were stargazing one night that Tara’s names for the constellations included The Big Pineapple and Little Pile O’Crackers. Which I love.

But now thanks to the amazing Star Walk App I can not only see where the constellations are, but have a glimpse at just how some people see the shapes of the animals or creatures or people that the star signs get their names from.

Mind you, I still find it a bit of a stretch that from a few dotted stars people can see Pegasus, or Leo, or Aquarius, or any of the others. But it’s nice to see where they see it.

Then there’s the other beautiful part of the Star Walk App, the “Picture of the Day” which shows stunning images of what’s out there way beyond what the eye can see (and beyond what the imagination can conjure for some). Some of my favourites that have me all dreamy and filled with wonder include these magical ones from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Lagoon Nebula, apparently also known as M8 (it’s all new to me, kids, but I’m trying to catch up) where stars are being formed, and the stunning interstellar “twisters” 5000 light years away towards Sagittarius.

Magic.

There’s three hours to sundown, and I can’t wait to get back out there and greet the stars with the help of my trusty iPhone and Star Walk App. Now if only the lovely people behind Star Walk could speak with Joss Whedon and the Buffy team to figure out where Little Pile O’Crackers is….

 

Love travelling with your iPhone? You may want to check out my stories on twelve great apps for travelling, find out some tips on protecting your iphone on dusty adventures, and also find out how to wipe your private phone data from a rental car.

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