iPad App Review: Solar Walk - 3D Solar System model Review
Reviewed by JadeDragon
With the recent Mars craze, people's interest in space is spiking. Solar Walk - 3D Solar System model offers some insight into the solar system we live in and gives us 3D interactive views of the planets, moons, asteroids and Earth's satellites. The app is both educational and entertaining; it's not a scientific study by any means, but there's a lot of knowledge if you dig deeper. Solar Walk - 3D Solar System Model is a universal app that works on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, but the experience on the iPad is the best.
Solar Walk 3D not only includes major planets (Pluto made the list) in our solar system but also dwarf planets, asteroids and comets. Depending on the existing level of knowledge of these planets, the app gives you 3D view of the planet's internal structures, point of interest, exploration projects for that planet, etc., and you can view the planets in Orrery view which puts other planets in our solar system in relative positions to each other. On some planets we've gathered a lot of data, for example, Mars. And you will see ton of points of interest and details of each probe we sent and what they've gathered. Other planets especially the ones that are too close to the sun, such as Mercury, we don't have a lot of data. The app has only just the view of the planet. Each of the moon for the planet you're exploring is also there.
In addition to the planets and their moons, the app also has working science satellites orbiting earth including Seasat, Hubble and the newly launched Daichi and Coronas-Photon. The satellites provide an unique viewing angle for planets, particularly for Earth. Following the Hubble as it's facing the direction of planets in our solar system puts the feeling of being in space on the iPad. Though Hubble travels at about 5 miles per second in Earth orbit, in this view, it moves slowly from the telescope's perspective and adds the dramatic effect as planets reveal themselves beyond Earth's profile. When you turn to see the Sun, you will see awesome solar flares in a surprisingly large presence. As with the information you get for planets, the satellites also has information of major science missions and their achievements.
Solar Walk offers several viewing options including the 2D view you normally see, a large TV high-res view that allows you to mirror the app wireless to your TV screen via Apple TV 2 or via HDMI cable. But perhaps the most intriguing viewing option is the 3D images both on the iPad and on TV in Anaglyph 3D. While the 3D gives you more immersive viewing experience, the time shifting feature in Solar Walk is a lot more useful if you want to see how the planets travel through time, especially in the Orrery view where our solar planets are all within the view. You can see where every planet is located in any given year, month, day, minute and second and where other planets in the solar system is in relation to the planet you're viewing. There is a time line slider you can use to fast forward or rewind in time at any speed you choose. Solar Walk 3D offers a sound tracks appropriate for space age exploration and sound effects as well.
Solar Walk 3D model also offers educational videos, such as solar eclipse and why it happens, and easy-to-use navigation. The images of planets, space, satellites and all objects are superb; and 3D movement of objects is in real time. For example, if you are looking at a comet, you will see where it's moving toward and the dust and gas trail around and behind it. The app is incredibly organized and well presented. It's great for you to just look up some fact or sit back and explore space for as long as you wish.