To infinity and beyond! Kids (and adults too) have always been fascinated by the mysteries and science of space. So why not take advantage of the warm summer temperatures and spend an evening stargazing with your little ones this summer?
Here are some tips for making the most of this fun family activity:
- Check your local weather forecast and try to pick an evening that is as clear as possible. Nothing rains on a stargazing parade as much as, well, rain. Or overcast skies.
- Try to find a spot with as little artificial lights as possible. Sometimes our backyards can be good enough for some simple gazing, but sometimes you might need to wander beyond the city's light pollution for best viewing. Higher altitudes also usually mean clearer skies.
- Bring a blanket to lie on (sitting while looking up will give you a sore neck pretty quick), dress for cool evening temperatures and bring bug spray! And snacks. Never leave home without snacks.
- Adjust time to your child's age. Younger children (8 and under) will have a harder time staying up too long after their bedtime, and might find it hard to focus for longer periods of gazing.
- You can keep it simple by just gazing at the stars, finding the brightest ones, or ones that change colours and ask your child what they think lies beyond the stars and helping them find constellations and planets! Or make it a bit more exciting by heading out to a stargazing event like a meteor shower (see below for upcoming ones this summer).
- If you or your child are really curious about the great, big skies, you might want to buy a simple telescope and download an app like Star Chart for a list of constellations and their locations.
- In between stargazing evenings, keep your child interested with resources like AmazingSpace to keep the learning going!
Best Stargazing Events for Summer 2018
July 27: Check out Mars!
Mars reaches its peak visibility on July 27. It will be the closest to Earth since 2003 (and the closest it will be until 2035! It will also be facing the sun in such a way that it will appear like a bright orange star. You'll be able to see it with your naked eye, but with a telescope you'll even be able to see Martian surface features!
July 27: Total Lunar Eclipse
If you happen to be in South America, Europe, Africa, Australia or Asia on July 27, you will be able to catch a total Lunar Eclipse.
August 11: Partial Solar Eclipse
For those of us in North America, Europe, Greenland, Iceland and Asia, there will be a partial solar eclipse on August 11, but it will happen during sunrise, so you'll need to be an early bird to catch it.
August 12-13: Perseid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower will be extra spectacular this year when it falls on a dark, moonless night! It can produce up to 60 shooting stars per hour, so definitely worth staying up late for!