Friday, August 30, 2013

Night Skies!

As part of our Handbook of Nature Study nature exploration in August, we studied the night sky. We really enjoy these challenges.

During the recent Perseid meteor shower, we decided to stay up a little later to watch the meteors pass by. My husband and I tried it the night before--it was nice to cuddle with him! So, we decided to take the kids and cousins out to investigate. It's hard to get away from the lights, so try to find places as dark as you can.

A few tips we had:
1. Allow time for your eyes to get used to the dark.
2. Try flashlights or laser pointers to enhance the time outside. A red lensed light helps preserve night vision.
3. A blanket is comfy!
4. Think about insect repellant.
5. A star chart or app is a great addition. I have a couple of glow in the dark charts and even a cool glow in the dark book about the moon.
6. Try binoculars.
7. Feel free to look at other things in the sky, airplanes, satellites, space station, planets, maybe even BATS or moths.
8. Even if you're not an expert on constellation, feel free to make up your own and make connections. Also, knowing a few basics, like the big dipper can be nice!

We pulled out our cell phones with the Sky View App (free download). It helped the children so much! They could see the "shape" of the constellations, with major stars outlined, read the names, and a little more. I heard so much about Greek mythology during their exploration. This is another great extension of studying constellations. It's also fun to look at how other groups name and categorize the night sky, as well as the legends behind them. The children also enjoyed the technology use--if they're going to use it anyway, might as well use it productively! It was great to hear the kids talk about the constellations later at our ETHOS Science Night on Space! My oldest waited to talk to the presenter in the Star Lab to ask questions and make comments after our talk. I was also very impressed with the teaching I saw at the Jr. Indiana Master Naturalist visit to the ETHOS Science2Go Bus on Astronomy earlier this summer. Good stuff!

I'm glad we decided to head outside on a special night before school started again. I often think of stargazing in the winter (with hot chocolate) as it gets darker earlier; however, the lazy days of summer are great, too. We're looking forward to Comet Ison on Thanksgiving Day!

Happy Night Viewing!