Introduce Your Kids to Stargazing
Be a space explorer! August is a great month to introduce kids to the wonders of astronomy. If you’re good with staying up late (9 p.m. or so), head to the backyard after dark. Prefer to honor regular bed time? Visit an observatory, planetarium or space center to explore during waking hours.
August Stargazing Events
Perseid Meteor Shower
This amazing show occurs as Earth passes through debris left by the Swift-Tuttle comet; this year, the display will be at its peak on August 13. Find a viewing area away from city lights and look to the northeast to spot meteors. Hard Labor Creek State Park is hosting a Perseid Shooting Star Party on August 12-13 or head to Victoria Bryant State Park on August 12 for A Walk to the Stars.
Saturn at Opposition
A planet is at opposition when it is directly opposite the sun. On August 26-27, Saturn will beat its brightest and easy to spot in the night sky, rising in the east at sunset.
On September 23, the sun will shine directly on Earth’s equator, creating equal amounts of day and night across the world. It also marks the first day of fall.
Full Blue Moon
During the August 30 blue full moon, the moon will be around 222,043 miles (357,343 km) from Earth, making this supermoon the closest and brightest of 2023.
Observatories and Planetariums
Dr. Ralph L. Buice Jr. Observatory
Part of Fernbank Science Center, the observatory houses a 36-inch Cassegrain reflector beneath a 30-foot dome. It’s open to visitors on Thursdays and Fridays from 9-10 p.m. Take in an immersive show at the museum’s planetarium (check the website for dates and times).678-874-7102. 156 Heaton Park Dr., Atlanta. fsc.fernbank.edu
North Georgia Astronomical Observatory
Located at the University of North Georgia, this state-of-the-art observatory is open to the public Wednesday-Friday at 9 p.m., weather permitting. 706-867-2037. Day Dr., Dahlonega.ung.edu/observatory
Georgia Tech Observatory
Visitors can view the sky through a 20-inch diameter telescope and hear astronomy faculty discuss the stars on view. Check the website for public viewing dates.404-385-1294.837 State St., Atlanta. astronomy.gatech.edu
Located at Tellus Science Museum, the observatory features a 20” telescope and a seismograph that detects earthquakes. It’s open for special events and workshops; check the website for dates. Daily shows at the Bentley Planetarium take visitors on a trip through the solar system and beyond. 770-606-5700. 100 Tellus. Dr., Cartersville. tellusmuseum.org
Road Trip: Space Centers in Georgia and Beyond
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.
Atlanta Astronomy Club. This local organization has regular meetings, viewing events and learning sessions.
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.
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.