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Total Solar Eclipse app review

The Exploratorium’s Total Solar Eclipse app (may 2017 ; iOS and Android) will be at its coolest on August 21. That’s when a total solar eclipse will take place over the U.S., and the app will make livestreams available from several different views. There’ll be live, hosted coverage in both English and Spanish starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time, and non-narrated telescope views starting slightly earlier, from Oregon (9 a.m. PDT) and Washington (9:15 a.m. PDT). Also at 9:15, there’ll be something called “Telescope Sonification with Kronos Quartet.” Apparently, that means photons from the eclipse will be turned into sound, and a string quartet will play along.

How do I know that? Because although the app’s most exciting feature is tied to that particular event, there’s plenty of background information to explore in the meantime. An “About Eclipses” section gives  an overview of eclipses, along with a diagram, and maps the upcoming eclipse’s path of totality. (That’s the area where the view of the sun will be completely obscured by the moon; this eclipse’s path of totality stretches on an arc from Oregon to South Carolina.) A page on “2016-17 Expeditions” tells more about the Exploratorium’s recent and upcoming work with eclipses.

A “Video Guide” page provides videos of previous eclipses plus other related information, from safe eclipse-viewing tips to scientific background to how the aforementioned sonification works. (Some of the videos are available in Spanish as well as English.)

If you don’t live in the path of totality, this is a great way to see the full eclipse live, and a “Connect” page lets you experience it with others via Exploratorium’s various social media platforms. And whether or not you’ll be able to experience the eclipse IRL, the app is a good way to learn about it beforehand.

Now if I can just get “Total Eclipse of the Heart” out of my head…

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and Android devices; free. Free livestream also viewable via any web browser. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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