image via pacsci.org
This is the perfect time of year to gather your family and a blanket and head out for some stargazing. Here are some great tips to get you started:
First you need to find a good location. This could easily be your own backyard, but if you live near bright city lights, this might mean waiting for a long weekend in the country or the woods. Once you've seen the stars away from the city, you'll realize that what a difference it makes.
If your kids are old enough, grab a few constellation charts and try to find them. If stargazing seems like a hobby your family enjoys, you might want to consider investing in a decent telescope so you can actually see some of the planets or the craters on the moon. A good way to check this out is by attending a Star Party - these are events held around the country by local amateur astronomers that allow you to "test drive" their equipment before you buy your own. We had a great time last summer out at the OMSI/Rose City Astronomers Star Party at Rooster Rock. We'll never forget seeing the rings of Saturn up close.
Once you've gone stargazing, you can continue to foster an interest by:
- Sticking some glow in the dark stars on your kids' bedroom ceiling
- Read books about the stars. A great one to start with is The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H.A Rey. If that name sounds familiar, you might now him better as the author of Curious George.
- Visit a Planetarium. Here in the Portland area you can visit the Kendall Planetarium at Omsi.
- Visit an Observatory. This summer we plan on visiting the Haggart Astronomical Observatory located on the campus of Clackamas Community College.
- Try some astronaut ice cream.
- Join the Pluto Fan Club Page at Olliebollen.com.
- Make your own glow in the dark comet