Tag Archives: astronomy

“Look, up in the sky!”

binocular-387319_1920It’s a great month to be an amateur astronomer! Not only do we have a solar eclipse to look forward to on the 21st, but did you know that you can also enjoy shooting stars every August? The Perseid meteor shower occurs every August (near my friend’s birthday, which is one of the reasons I remember it!) and it should peak this weekend. I just made a display of some books about meteors, shooting stars and solar eclipses, but there are lots of great online resources, too.

The Adult Reference blog has all kinds of information right now about the upcoming solar eclipse. Lots of it will be readable and interesting for older kids. There’s an excellent roundup of online resources from Sky & Telescope magazine which includes a short, printable guide aimed at science teachers.

If you’re looking for something aimed at younger readers, NASA has resources especially for students as well as the NASA Kids’ Club, a page about the solar system, and Space Place (in English or Spanish). Space Place currently has an animation on the front page to explain, “What is a solar eclipse?” If you click on it, you can also download a poster with the information. You can find a link to eclipse safety information, too. Going beyond the eclipse, there is also information on meteor showers and how to watch for shooting stars. We will be trying some of the website’s hands-on activities at the bilingual Noche de la Familia program on the evening of August 21.

For information on the library’s eclipse-related programming and the eclipse glasses giveaway, please visit the special Eclipse page on our website. Please note that there is a limited supply of glasses. The teacher guide I mentioned above has instructions for other ways to view the eclipse safely, including simple pinhole projectors made from easy-to-come-by materials like cardboard, aluminum foil, and a pushpin.

If you would like to follow up on a family interest in astronomy sparked by this year’s eclipse, you might enjoy checking out one of our new STEAMboxes. The Astronomy Set has been popular and has several holds on it, but keep in mind– the Bird watching kit also includes binoculars! Janice Van Cleave also has several books with space science activities to try. You might also want to recreate some of the activities from the Noche de la Familia program with craft books, the Star Walk app, or music.

Stargazing: Seeking Perseid meteor showers – chicagotribune.com

The Chicago Tribune recently had a great article, Stargazing: Seeking Perseid meteor showers, about watching the Perseid meteor showers (which are at their peak around August 12 this year).

The first time I remember seeing shooting stars was at a Girl Scout camp in Michigan.  As the articles I linked to above point out, a rural area without a lot of artificial light is the best place to see the night sky.  Campsites are great for that, and so are the small towns in Ohio where my brother and I went to college!  The article from the Tribune proposes taking a road trip to a good site, and provides links to some dark sky maps to help you find the best locations.  The closest one I found was in New Lenox, although you could easily go as far as Wisconsin.

My most organized experience with watching a meteor shower was during an astronomy class in college.  Our professor determined that the busiest part of the shower would be in the early hours of the morning, between midnight and dawn.  We bundled up, brought blankets and sleeping bags and interested friends, and settled down in an open field to watch the sky.  There was a bit of a wait before we saw anything, so it was good to be prepared for lying on the cold ground.

We were chatting and joking at first as we waited for the meteors.  When someone saw the first long, bright streaks of light we all started pointing and shouting as if we were watching fireworks.  I remember that as the meteor shower really peaked, and we saw one meteor after another streak across the sky, everybody quieted down to just watch and enjoy.