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 2020
July 4-5: Lunar Eclipse
A penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible over North America the night of July 4.
Mid July: Spotlight - Jupiter & Saturn
Jupiter and Saturn will be lighting up our summer night sky all season. The middle of July will be the best time of the summer to view them, with or without a telescope, as they will both be reaching opposition. This is the point in their orbits where they will be closest to the Earth, making them appear brighter than any other point in the year. Jupiter will reach opposition first on July 14 followed by Saturn on July 20.
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 100 shooting stars per hour. This year will be even better than last year's because of less moon interference! Meteors will peak after midnight.
October 31: Blue Moon
October doesn't quite count for summer stargazing, but I couldn't leave this rare blue moon off our list. As your trick-or-treaters head outside, look up to spot the blue light of the moon. Blue moons appear every 2-3 years but it's very rare that they occur on Halloween. The next time this will happen is in 2039!