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 2019
July 28-29: Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower
Head out to see the Delta Aquarius Meteor Shower which peaks during the night of July 28 and morning of July 29! This meteor shower is made of debris left behind from comets Marsden and Kracht and can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak (shortly after midnight).
August 1 & 30: New Moon
While you won't be able to see the moon itself in the night sky on these dates(because it will be located on the same side of the earth as the sun), the dark skies will make it easier to spot faint objects like star clusters and galaxies.
August 9: Spot Mercury
If you don't mind an early morning, this is your chance to see Mercury as it reaches its highest point above the horizon. Watch for it low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.
August 12-13: Perseid Meteor Shower
This meteor shower is always a great show, made from debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle! It can produce up to 60 shooting stars per hour. Although this year a full moon might make it harder to see the fainter meteors, there should still be plenty of bright ones to marvel at. Find as dark of a location as possible for best viewing, meteors will peak after midnight.
September 9: Spot Jupiter
The blue giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.