Introduce Your Kids to Stargazing
Stargazing is amazing! Summer is a great time to take a look at the night sky. There are lots of ways for kids to see stars – right in your own back yard.
August Stargazing Events
Perseid Meteor Shower: This fiery show occurs as the Earth passes through debris left by the Swift-Tuttle comet. Meteors are predicted to be visible through August 23, with the best viewing before dawn and after dusk on August 12. Find a spot away from city lights and look in the opposite direction of the moon to spot meteors. Learn more at nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov.
Paddle Under the Perseids: View the year’s best meteor showers from a kayak at Hard Labor State Park; tours are led by a park ranger. August 11-13.
Jupiter at Opposition: On August 19, Jupiter will rise in the east as the Sun sets in the west, remaining visible the entire night. Jupiter will be one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Its four largest moons and cloud bands are easily spotted with even a small telescope. Read more at nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov.
Blue Moon: This astrological event will happen on August 22, when the full moon will be the third of four full moons in a season (the time between a solstice and an equinox). Learn more at earthsky.org.
How to View Stars
Special equipment isn’t required –many stars and planets can be seen with the naked eye. For a closer look, now’s the time to dig out that telescope in the back of the kids’ closet. No telescope? Binoculars are a great way to begin a stargazing hobby without a big investment. They’re lightweight and easy for beginners to use. Wait for a clear night and set up your stargazing “observatory” – spread an old blanket in the yard so kids can lean back and catch the view. Fill a plastic or inflatable wading pool with pillows for a cozy spot, or grab a couple of lounge chairs.
Before you head outside, learn a little about the night sky. Understanding the phases of the moon, the constellations, and why planets move will help make sense of what you’re seeing. Consider joining an astronomy club or organization; it’s a great way to connect and learn. The Atlanta Astronomy Club has regular meetings, viewing events and learning sessions.
A stargazing app can be a big help when checking out the night sky. Hold your tablet or phone in any direction, and you’ll see a road map that pinpoints the location of stars and planets. These apps are available at the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Night Sky: Use your mobile device’s camera to spot celestial objects of all kinds, day or night. Includes night sky quizzes and detailed internal views of planets.
SkyView: Identify stars, planets, galaxies and even passing satellites. Learn facts about space and set alerts for upcoming viewing events.
StarWalk2: View stars, solar systems and galaxies; an augmented reality setting and 3D constellation diagrams provide detailed views.
NASA Kids’ Club Games and fun facts, at-home STEM activities, news on NASA missions, videos, interviews from the ISS and more will get kids excited about space.
National Geographic Kids Passport to Space Kids can explore the solar system through photos, stories and videos; test their skills with space games and quizzes, and learn“weird but true” space facts.
EarthSky Daily updates on what to see in the sky, from comet appearances to planet viewing.Educational articles and videos explain new research and discoveries.
Stargazing Books for Kids
Astronomy for Kids: How to Explore Outer Space with Binoculars, a Telescope or Just Your Eyes! by Bruce Betts, PhD (Rockridge Press), $11.79 on amazon.com.
UltimateExplorer: Night Sky by Howard Schneider (National Geographic),$12.99 on barnesandnoble.com.
Star Finder! A Step-by-Step Guide to theNight Sky by DK (DK Children), $11.39 on amazon.com.
Constellation Telescope: Make a play telescope with a paper towel roll. Paint and decorate the empty tube and use downloadable constellation cards from kidsactivitiesblog.com for fun viewing, day or night.
Meteorite Crispy Treats: Take these cosmic snacks on your next stargazing trip – stir chopped candy bars into the basic recipe for marshmallow crispy treats. Mold into balls and roll in sprinkles or colored sugar.
Dimensional Moon Art: Mix white paint and flour to make a thick paste. Trace a circle onto a piece of craft paper and use the paint to create the moon’s textured surface. Decorate the paper with stars, meteors and more! Find complete instructions at iheartcraftythings.com.
Constellation Jar: Cut a rectangle from a disposable cake pan to line the inside of a glass jar. Use an awl or nail to punch holes for the constellations. Add a battery-operated mini light and enjoy the glow! Visit designmom.com for full instructions.
Space in a Box: Get space delivered to your door with the Space & Beyond subscription box. Each themed box has cool space swag – posters, information, unique gadgets and more. Boxes are delivered quarterly, $49.95/box at spaceandbeyondbox.com.
Bring the Stars Indoors
Smithsonian Planetarium Projector ($26.49 at target.com). This tabletop projector brings the nighttime sky to any room. Choose a rotating star pattern or HD images of planets, nebulae, moons, asteroids and spacecraft.
Discovery Kids Planetarium Projector ($32.44 at walmart.com). Project stars and planets onto ceilings and walls with this battery-operated adjustable projector. It includes 3 discs with 24 images of galaxies, constellations and nebulae.
Equipment for Beginners
ToyerBee Telescope ($74.99 at amazon.com) This portable scope features a 3xBarlow lens and two eyepieces plus a smartphone adapter, wireless camera remote and tripod.
Gskyer Telescope for Beginners and Kids ($54.99 at amazon.com) Includes telescope and tripod, carry bag, phone adapter and wireless remote. Accessory tools include eyepieces and a finder scope.
Barska 10×42 Crush Binoculars ($69.99 at target.com) Features 10x power for close-up viewing and multicoated lenses.
Want to learn more? Read our story on the Best Places to Go Stargazing Around Atlanta.