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The night sky has captivated humans for all time. It has helped us navigate, understand time and hold space for the biggest most powerful questions about the universe. Plus, it just feels magical! Here are easy ways to kick off a lifelong love of the cosmos with your kiddos.
Start with wonder: Even though it may mess with bedtime, keep kids up a little later to see the sky change at night and behold the moon, planets and stars. Or, if you can't do that, look at pictures of the night sky. Wonder together, What do we see? Where is all that light coming from? What do you think is out there? Take kids' ideas and offer some simple ways to think about it.
- Stars are balls of fire that burn trillions of miles away—that is really far. Amazing that their light reaches us all the way here on Earth!
- Planets like Earth also shine in the sky because our sun—our closest star—shines light on them.
- Meteoroids are smaller "flying space rocks." When meteoroids hit the atmosphere of gases around the Earth, they often burst into flames—and we see them as "shooting stars."
Catch some special celestial events:
- Saturn and Jupiter—This August, Saturn and Jupiter are in opposition to the sun, which means that they will shine their brightest in the sky. Find out which planets are easy to spot in the night sky on space.com. Even ezines like Forbes.com have articles on this summer's particularly marvelous planet spying.
- Perseid Meteor Shower—Though it started in mid July, the peak of this year's Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak on August 11th and 12th, with 50 bright meteors per minute, amped by the fact that it falls when there is hardly any moonlight to compete. Learn more about how to capture this magical celestial show here.
Learn about constellations: Read books together to learn the stories of constellations throughout history and across cultures. Here are some of our favorites:
- What We See in the Stars: An illustrated Tour of the Night Sky by Kelsey Oseid
- Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations by Jacqueline Mitton
- Star Stories: Constellation Tales from Around the World by Anita Ganeri
- How the Stars Fell Into the Sky by Jerrie Oughton
Discover the constellations in your night sky: Apps like SkyView, Star Tracker and Star Walk enable you to see and identify the constellations in your night sky just by pointing your phone in different directions. These apps work just as well in daylight as in the night, making them a great way to explore the stars without interfering with bedtime.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Getting to know the night sky is a marvelous way to dazzle the senses, spark lifelong curiosity, connect to nature and one another. And, it's easier than you think!