App Review – Planets for iOS – The Wired Homeschool

To go with this month’s “Look Up” article, I thought I’d review an astronomy app for iOS related to backyard astronomy.

With Planets beginning astronomers can have a handy reference for finding planets in the night sky. It features 2D and 3D views to help orient the user and pinpoint celestial bodies through the night. Since it uses GPS Planets can accurately render a representation of your night sky.

The 2D view is very useful if you want to get a simple view of the sky and you don’t want to know what else is around the planet (like stars or constellations). The 3D view gives you a more accurate representation of the night sky and shows you the constellations and stars that each planet is near. You can also zoom in on a planet in the 3D view.

In addition to the 2D and 3D maps there is also a visibility graph that shows you how long each planet is visible. Tap on each planet and get information about it like it’s size, rotational speed, and number of moons. Want to know more about the planet? There’s a link to it’s Wikipedia article too. 3D globes of each planet are available too. You can explore each planet by rotating and zooming in on it, even change your point of view.

Planets is a handy tool for astronomers of any level but is especially useful for beginners who are learning to find their way around the night sky and best of all, it’s free!

Planets - Q Continuum

Cost: Free
Category: Utilities
Languages: English, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
Rated 4+
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Look Up for April 2012 – The Wired Homeschool

April is a really exciting month for backyard astronomy. Many planets will be near the moon in the night sky which helps those unfamiliar with the “dance of the planets” find planets and know for sure that they’re looking at planet and not a star. The great thing about what I’ll be sharing with you is that you do not need a telescope to observe any of they phenomena.

On April 3rd and 4th Mars will be near a waxing, gibbous moon in the South during the pre-dawn hours. Go outside before sunrise and check it out. Then, April 6th and 7th Saturn will be near the full moon.

On April 15th, Saturn will be at opposition which means that it is opposite the Sun so that the Earth is between them. This means that Saturn will rise in the East at sundown and set in the West at sunrise. It’s a great month to view Saturn and Mars so get out there and take a look.

Venus and the moon will be near each other on April 24th. Venus is super-bright right now and it looks like an airplane except you won’t see any blinking lights.

Finally, we go back to Mars which will be near the waxing, moon on April 30th.

Note: all this information is for people living in the Northern Hemisphere.

Looking for information about the night sky? Why not try reading Jay Ryan’s Celestial Almanack. Jay shares lots of great information about astronomy every month that you can use in your homeschool curriculum.


Disclaimer: This blog article contains affiliate links.

How to Hack a Webcam for Telescopes and Microscopes – The Wired Homeschool

I posted this video to YouTube in 2006. It’s the most “viral” video I’ve ever produced—receiving over 300,000 views.

It’s a simple instructional video showing you how to modify an old webcam to use with a telescope. You could even adapt this for use with a microscope if it has interchangeable eyepieces. Simple hacks like this are a fun way to introduce your kids to scientific topics.

Grab that telescope that’s been collecting dust in your basement or closet and go out at night a make some moon videos! Post them on YouTube or send them to me and I’ll be happy to include them here. If you post your video on YouTube, put a link to it in the comments below.

Once you’ve hacked your webcam, check out this article on capturing images and how to use your new toy.