Stargazing with kids is a fun way to enjoy the night sky and nurture your kids' love for science. Of course, half the fun of stargazing is watching your kids delight at the world around them.
But before you can start identifying constellations and planets, you'll have to find a good spot. And in stargazing, that means a dark sky. You’ll always see more if you can get away from light pollution which can be caused by anything from street lights to your neighbor's porch light. If you live near a huge state or a national park, you're in luck as these have less light pollution caused by artificial lighting.
Once you find your spot, it's time to look up! If you don't know the "landscape" of the night sky yourself, print a map of the constellations in your location or visit Sky Map Online to get a stars map of your area. And Sky & Telescope also has a few family-friendly projects for you to try. Of course, you can bring along some helpful items like a kid-sized telescope or a Star Wheel, which is an inexpensive star map adjustable for any time of night in any month of the year.
To Use a Star Wheel
- Set date and time
- Note which horizon the constellation is closest to and put that horizon near the bottom.
- Constellations higher in the sky are closer to the center of the map.
Quite a number of stars have names. Some are actually planets and not stars. If you're lucky, you can view the international space station floating in space. This is one occasion when we can teach our kids about the benefits of using technology. Today there are dozens of mobile apps that you can download to your phone and help you identify constellations, planets, stars, even the space station! All you have to do most of the time is just point your device at the night sky.
Don't forget to bring along some space-themed snacks, pillows and blankets for extra fun!