Plenty of young kids get excited about the idea of nighttime activities. And one way to get them to learn and play is by taking them stargazing. The night sky is a giant puzzle, filled with thousands of stars, distant planets, and, sometimes, even comets shooting across space. Best of all, you can find them all in your backyard!
If you’d like to teach your kids about space, here’s what you’ll need:
Sky Maps and Guidebooks
First things first, you’ll need to introduce your kids to astronomy. Tell them about all the different kinds of heavenly bodies to get them interested in the topic. Then you can show them detailed guides and maps to help them picture how vast the solar system is. The most detailed maps will reveal all kinds of special stars, clusters, and galaxies. Use them to pinpoint the things you want to look for when you go stargazing.
There are also online astronomy resources that feature plenty of space photos and educational videos. These are provided by renowned organizations like NASA and different astronomical centers!
To enhance the stargazing experience, you’ll need some key equipment. Telescopes are the obvious choice, with the two most common types being refracting and reflecting telescopes. Both are generally optimal for stargazing, but reflecting telescopes are generally the cheaper option.
The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ is an ideal starter telescope given that it’s easy to set up and can be controlled using a simple smartphone application. It also displays information about the celestial objects that the telescope picks up, making it a great option for teaching your kids. If you’re a more advanced astronomer, you can opt for the iOptron Versa 108 ED. Though it’s more complex in terms of handling and setup, the payoff is that it allows you to take clear and crisp photos of the night sky. Just note that telescopes tend to give you a close-up view of the sky, so its view is quite narrow in scope.
An alternative to this is a pair of binoculars. This tool is ideal for when you want a wider view of the night sky. So, if you’re looking for specific stars or planets, you can start searching with binoculars and once you’ve found them, switch to your telescope.
For binoculars, a good option is the Celestron TrailSeeker 8×42. It provides bright, crisp images of the night sky and is also resistant to fogging. Another great choice is the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10×50. A cheaper alternative, this pair of binoculars provides a great view of the sky, despite its lightweight design. It also features retractable eyecups, making it ideal if any of your kids wear glasses.
A Sky Journal
Provide your kids with a notebook or even a blank piece of paper for them to record their findings. Here, they can try to replicate what they see through the telescope, and you can even challenge them to name the stars and other celestial bodies that they see! Tip: Get them to use pencils instead of pens, so it’s easier to edit their work as needed.
The Right Weather Conditions
Though it’s not something you can bring, you’ll need to wait for the right weather conditions. The ideal conditions for stargazing comprise of a cloudless sky with high transparency and stability in the atmosphere.
These can easily be checked using weather mobile applications or websites devoted to astronomy. Keep an eye on cloud forecasts to check whether the night is clear enough. And double-check barometric pressure levels to pinpoint sky clarity. The higher the pressure, the clearer it will be. It will also be a good idea to check the calendar of celestial events so your kids can get one-of-a-kind experiences while stargazing!
Stargazing is a great way to teach your kids about the worlds outside their comfort zone. It serves as both a learning experience and an avenue for parents to bond with their children. All it takes is a little prep work. And if you’re looking for more fun and unforgettable experiences for their childhood, consider sending your kids to summer camp this year!