The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews
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LunarPhase Pro (Astronomy Software) Review by Amber SmithGary Nugent
The last few years have been full of outstanding astronomical events, prompting even an amateur sky observer like myself to want to learn more about what is happening in the heavenly bodies above. We have been using LunarPhase Pro as a part of our homeschool science, to explore the moon’s surface, follow its rotation, and so much more.
Why the moon? The moon is observable no matter where you are on Earth, so it is a natural starting point for the new astronomer. LunarPhase Pro’s software allows you to set your observation point from any location on Earth so you can see the moon’s phase and specific surface features from anywhere at any time, past or present. At under forty dollars, this is the perfect companion for comparing features you might see with the naked eye or a beginning-level telescope. You can pull up high-resolution maps from your observation point and compare to locate features to discover their names. You can also call up over nine-thousand features on the surface of the moon by their name or sort and find by type to see them on many of the detailed maps.
We used LunarPhase Pro to find our local moon rise and setting times as well as the exact position on the horizon. There is something about astronomy that makes us appreciate the exacting nature of mathematics. Thousands of calculations are proven true as the moon rises exactly where it is scheduled to appear. For features we cannot observe, there are beautifully articulated simulations. We watched the wobble of the moon (called libration) in orbit, something we cannot observe with the naked eye as it moves through sky, but we could witness as a 24-hour sampling in the main dashboard. Other dashboard features are: the position of the sun and moon, moon-phase chart, calendar, and twilight observation times. There are also tool bar links to access maps and many learning tools. The resource list is one that will keep us learning for a long time to come with articles for the beginner and pro alike.
This summer we will not only know when the large meteor showers are going to be, but we will be able to choose which ones will be the least obscured by the moon’s light. LunarPhase Pro will sort meteorological events by their size and observability and give us the best viewing area. For the last two years, we have missed the Perseid Meteor shower due to cloud cover, but with LunarPhase, I was able to confirm the best dates to plan for this year, down to the hour. If we have cloud cover again, we can search the database for links from other resources like NASA and watch from other locations.
Overall, LunarPhase Pro is a tool we will keep coming back to. If you have a child who is interested in the night sky, this would be a perfect tool to help them search safely in one place. Have you bought a telescope and the excitement has grown a little cold? I would pair this program with your telescope in a heartbeat to get the most out of both. On its own,LunarPhase Pro inspired our kids to get out and make scientific observations of their own, check data, and use maps and charts in a whole new way. The moon is already up there just waiting for you to take a fresh look at it;LunarPhase helped us learn as we observed it.
-Product review by Amber Smith, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017