A few months ago, a good friend showed me an app on his ipad that allowed him to view all of the celestial bodies around the earth in their exact real-time locations (satellites as well). I was floored by the potential of the app (which was Starmap) and the curiosity it could unleash.
The same company has put out a similar program (Spacemap) with a richer user interface making it more approachable for kids and students. Not only does it fulfill the same capabilities of Starmap, it also allows users to “fly” through solar systems on virtual intersellar voyages (again, with accurate celestial mapping).
For the right age bracket (junior high and higher), this application could serve to open up young minds to interest in space, astronomy, and science. Having a fully dynamic application that lets you point at, say, Sirius, and then instantly start flying there puts celestial bodies firmly within the grasp of any student. Coordinating daytime space journeys with nighttime star viewing would only serve to enhance the experience.
Personally speaking, I would have truly enjoyed having this as a kid. I remember when we first got Windows 95 and it featured a primitive program that would let you fly into space (very slowly), and how much time I spent doing that (despite the limited graphics and incorrect positioning) just to wrap my head around the distances involved… I was 13 at the time, and the adult me is just as excited about the potential offered in programs like Spacemap.
In many ways, science fiction is only science future.
Check out Spacemap at this link: