Millions of us peeked through dark glasses and stared at the sky last month. Catching a glimpse of the solar eclipse was a once in a lifetime opportunity. If your kid was glued to the skies and loves to star gaze, downloading the Cosmic Watch app is a no-brainer.
With so much going on in the skies above us, astronomy apps can help kids make sense of our solar system. Here we are going to have a look at the Cosmic Watch app, which stands out for its beautiful graphics and intricate design features.
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What does the app do?
At its most basic setting, the app shows a 3D picture of the globe with time and location. Kids can move the display and look at different points in our planet. But the app gives much more than just a picture of our world.
When you fire up the app in timekeeping mode, first impressions of the 3D graphic are stunning. Displaying the world as if you are looking at it from above, kids can search for one of 15,000 cities and show their time and place on the globe. Night and day show up on the map, and clusters of lights reveal big cities like Mumbai and New York. Kids will love pinching and tapping the map to look at different cities and their location in the world – handy for teaching geography and helping kids understand time-zones. Another fun feature is seeing how the planets move around the sky over time. You can input in any date and then fast forward to today, all the time watching how the planets move.
For young kids this would most likely be the extent to which they could use the app. But for older kids and teens, the meat of the app comes from the visualizations of the cycles of the earth and solar system around us.
Astronomy and Astrology Modes
Aside from the timekeeping mode, Cosmic Watch has two other main modes; astronomy and astrology. It took some fiddling around to figure out what each of the modes meant. Reading the FAQs and watching the videos on the Cosmic Watch website gave me an “aha” moment. But some time is needed to fully understand what each of these modes mean, and actually make sense of what the graphic is showing. For those of us who don’t know much about astronomy or astrology, taking half an hour to read up about these concepts (available on the website) is definitely worthwhile.
One tip is when you first open up the app, click on the settings cog and turn on the help button. This displays in text what each of the different modes are and helps understand what everything does. Having the text appear as default would have made understanding the more advanced concepts quicker.
The astronomy mode shows you all the constellations and planets in the sky. When you use it with the time mode you can see the planets buzzing around. You can also add planet names, equatorial coordinates and celestial rings to give more detail about what the mode is displaying.
The astrology mode shows zodiac signs and where they are in relation to earth. Kids can set their birthday using the timekeeping function and see where where all the planets were in their journey around the Sun at the exact moment they were born.
Another setting that I found very handy was the solar system display. Rather than looking directly at our earth, it shows the position of the earth in relation to the other planets in our solar system. Using the timekeeping function, you can see how the planets move around the earth.
The possibilities for using Cosmic Watch for teaching kids are huge; the app could easily be used for teaching the time, geography, the planets and our solar system. With a little ingenuity, kids could create projects on time travel, where planets were at important points in time, or even plan and map space trips. Being able to touch and see our solar system and learn how time works in a more visual way, would help kids learn about concepts that can sometimes be difficult to understand. For parents who have kids curious about astronomy, the app is reasonably priced and is a worthwhile download.