Stargazing With Kids: A Cosmic Adventure

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Share the Wonder

[one_full last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1" class=”” id=””][t[tagline_box backgroundcolor=”#f7f7f7" shadow=”no” shadowopacity=”0.4" border=”0px” bordercolor=”” highlightposition=”left” content_alignment=”left” link=”” linktarget=”_self” modal=”” button_size=”” button_shape=”” button_type=”” buttoncolor=”” button=”” title=”Hands-On Dad Tackles the Universe” description=”Take your kids stargazing, and you will make great memories. Teach your kids about the cosmos, and you will kindle a lifetime of wonder. Not sure where to begin? Resident Hands-On Dad offers tips and ideas for turning a pretty scene into an amazing learning experience.” margin_top=”15px” margin_bottom=”20px” animation_type=”fade” animation_direction=”static” animation_speed=”1" class=”” id=””]taglin[/tagline_box][title size=”2" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]t Sky: A Primer in Blowing Minds[/title][f[/title][fusion_text]e="font-size: small;">The night sky is beautiful, but one cannot fully appreciate it without some context. On a clear night, the bare eye can see about 9,000 stars. The closest is about 4 light years away and some are 8,000 light years away. The farthest thing we (in the northern hemisphere) can see with the naked eye is our neighbor galaxy, Andromeda, which is 2.6 million light years away. To put that in perspective, if an alien in the Andromeda galaxy were looking up at its night sky right now and saw our sun, it would be seeing our sun as it was before our evolutionary ancestors stood upright (homo erectus). [/fusion_t[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0" stylecolor=”” align=”center” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0" animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1" hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””]" src="https://wondernook23-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Teach-Kids-Astronomy.png">[/imageframe][fusion_text]Before you go stargazing with kids, you need to prime their minds. You are about to drive them out to the middle of nowhere, way past bedtime, and drop some serious knowledge on them. [/fusion_text][t[/fusion_text][title size=”3" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]ut Things in Perspective[/title][fusion_te[/title][fusion_text]family: Calibri, sans-serif;">How do you teach the unfathomable? Since all kids are cute little narcissists, the first thing you should do is create a visual representation of where they fit into things. Keep things visual with maps, globes, and photos. This slideshow is an example for some imaginary family in New York City. Click the arrows to scroll through.[/fusion_text][ima[/fusion_text][images picture_size=”auto” hover_type=”none” autoplay=”no” columns=”3" column_spacing=”8" scroll_items=”1" show_nav=”yes” mouse_scroll=”no” border=”no” lightbox=”yes” class=”” id=””] linkt[image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://wondernook.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/StarGazing1.jpg” alt=”Stargazing With Kids: Your House”][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://wondernook.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/StarGazing2.jpg” alt=”Stargazing With Kids: Your City”][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://wondernook.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Stargazing3.jpg” alt=”Stargazing With Kids: Your State”][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://wondernook.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Stargazing4.jpg” alt=”Stargazing With Kids: Your Country”][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://wondernook.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Stargazing5.jpg” alt=”Stargazing With Kids: Earth”][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://wondernook.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Stargazing6.jpg” alt=”Stargazing With Kids: Our Solar System”][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”https://wondernook.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Stargazing7.jpg” alt=”Stargazing With Kids: The Milky Way Galaxy”][/images][fusion_text]: Calibri, sans-serif;">Ok, that’s as far as I’m going to take this thing. Our local group of galaxies is only about 1/10,000th the diameter of the observable universe, but it is still pretty darn big to us. By the way, when I say “observable universe,” I’m not talking about what you can see with the naked eye. I’m talking about how far things can theoretically be observed. The whole universe is very likely “infinite,” but I’m not going to try to discuss what that really means (at least not in this post!). [/fusion_text][title siz[/fusion_text][title size=”2" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]e Minds: A Cheatsheet for Grown-Ups[/title][fusion_text]The thing about kids is that once you tell them something that really piques their interest, they will ask lots of probing questions–questions they expect you to answer. You need prepare. Lucky for you, I’ve already done this for you.[/fusion_text][/one_full][[/fusion_text][/one_full][one_half last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1" class=”” id=””]t_[title size=”3" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]]You: Hey look, it’s the moon!

Child: What’s the moon?

You: It’s a big round ball (about a quarter the size of the Earth) that orbits (goes around) the Earth once a month.

Child: What’s it made out of?

You: Rock.

Child: Why is it so bright?

You: Because it is reflecting light from the sun.

Child: Where did it come from?

You: Many years ago a huge asteroid hit the Earth and knocked out a big chunk that eventually started to orbit Earth and become our moon.

Child: Do people live there?

You: No, but people have traveled to the moon, walked around, and brought back moon rocks.

Child: Why should I care about the moon?

You: If the Earth never had a moon, it is very likely that complex life would never have occurred. This is because the moon stabilizes the Earth’s axial rotation, which ensures relatively mild temperatures that allow life to evolve.[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_half last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1" class=”” id=””]ig[title size=”3" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]style="[/title][fusion_text]n style="font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">You: Look at all the stars!

Child: What’s a star?

You: It’s a giant mass of incandescent gas.

Child: Huh?

You: A star is a huge ball of fire. Our sun is a star.

Child: Why is it on fire?

You: Because it is a continuous nuclear explosion.

Child: If it is exploding, why doesn’t it just blow out into lots of little pieces?

You: Gravity holds it all together. Actually, it’s the immense gravity that causes everything to get squeezed together, which causes the nuclear explosions.

Child: What’s gravity?

You: Gravity is the force of attraction from an object’s mass. The Earth is much bigger than you, so the Earth’s gravity is what holds your feet on the floor.

Child: Why does mass create gravity?

You: Because mass distorts space-time.

Child: Why?

You: Higgs Boson?

Child: Huh?

You: Hey look, that red star is not really a star, it’s a planet!

[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_half[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_half last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1" class=”” id=””][title size=”3" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]yle="font[/title][fusion_text]s-serif;">(Don’t know how to identify a planet? Check out the Blue Box of Apps below.)

You: That red shiny dot is the planet Mars!

Child: What’s a planet?

You: A planet is a huge thing that orbits a star. It needs to be so big that its own gravity squeezes it into the shape of a ball.

Child: Why does Mars look like a red star?

You: Like the moon, Mars is reflecting the light from the sun, so it shines. It looks smaller than the moon because it is farther away. Mars is red because most of its surface is covered in iron oxide (rust).

Child: Do people live on Mars?

You: No, but we have sent robots to Mars to explore and send back movies.

[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_half las[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_half last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1" class=”” id=””]ef[title size=”3" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]fusion_text](Did you know you can actually see the International Space Station with the naked eye? This takes some prep: timing and darkness is everything. Check out my Blue Box of Apps for resources.)


You: Did you know some people live in space?

Child: Really? Where?

You: On the International Space Station.

Child: Cool!

You: It’s traveling at over 17,000 miles an hour and circles the Earth about 16 times a day.[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_full last=[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_full last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”yes” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”#20c6cc” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”1px” border_color=”#d8d8d8" border_style=”dashed” padding=”20px” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”0" animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1" class=”” id=””]no[fontawesome icon=”fa-tablet” circle=”no” size=”large” iconcolor=”#ffffff” circlecolor=”#1eb4bf” circlebordercolor=”#ffffff” rotate=”” spin=”no” animation_type=”0" animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”1" alignment=”left” class=”” id=””]le_t[title size=”1" content_align=”left” style_type=”single dashed” sep_color=”#ffffff” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]span>[/title]


[fusion_text]Unless you’re an expert astronomer, I highly recommend bringing some smartphone apps along when you go stargazing with kids. Two of my favorites:[/fusion_text][checklist icon=”fa-star-o” iconcolo[/fusion_text][checklist icon=”fa-star-o” iconcolor=”#ffffff” circle=”no” circlecolor=”” size=”13px” class=”” id=””][li_item icon=”fa-rocket”]: Arial, sans-serif;">Google Sky Map: I like Google Sky Map because it’s free and it works. Just point it at the night sky and it will show you all the stars and planets that you are looking at (with labels!).[/li_item][li_item icon=”fa-rocket”]ISS Detector: To really impress your child, get ISS Detector (or something like it). This app that tells you the date, time, and direction from which you can see the International Space Station fly over! You’ll know when you see it because it will look like a star moving quickly across the night sky.[/li_item][/checklist][/one_full][one_full last=”yes[/li_item][/checklist][/one_full][one_full last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1" class=”” id=””]e=[title size=”2" content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]span style="font-family: Calibri, sa[/title][fusion_text]e="font-size: small;">Ok, now you’ve got some cool pictures to help your kids understand where they are in the universe (or at least in the Local Group of galaxies). You’re even ready to answer some of the questions they will ask. You’re ready to set the scene! But… where?

 You could just go in your yard, but (depending on where you live) you probably won’t see many stars. This is because of light pollution. Check out Dark Site Finder, which has an interactive US map with a graded scale of light pollution. Remember our imaginary family in New York City? They’d have to drive pretty far to get to a “dark” area. If you live in an area with high light pollution and driving for an hour won’t bring you down to “green” on the graded scale, then I recommend planning star gazing to coincide with your next road trip or camping trip. 

 

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Ryan

I am happily married and have two boys. I am an engineer by trade. My passions are science, football, comedy, and spending time with my family. I am very excited about having a vehicle to tell people some fun and educational activities that you can do with your kids. It can be hard work sometimes, but seeing that look of wonder your in child's eyes makes it all worth it. Go outside! Get dirty! Imagine, create, try, fail, and try again! Be tenacious! This is your only life, so go live it!


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