A Place in Space and Star Cycles

For STEM Friday we have a new e-book, A Place In Space, by Astronomer Sarah Willis.

In a clever linkage of ideas, a young girl and her cat take an imaginary trip into space (via telescope) to explore the Cat’s Paw Nebula and the Cat’s Eye Nebula.

As explained in “The Science Behind the Story” section in the back, these two real space objects with similar names actually represent two opposing stages in the life cycle of stars. In the Cat’s Paw Nebula, young stars are being formed in the swirling clouds. In the Cat’s Eye Nebula, a large star has exploded at the end of its life cycle. The explosion pushed out rings of gas and dust, which will eventually be the stuff of new stars and thus completing the cycle.

The rhyming text is probably most appropriate for early elementary-aged children. The illustrations are imaginative, but frankly not the professional quality you see in most picture books these days. Do children mind? I’m not sure.

The good news is that you can decide for yourself, because Sarah Willis is making A Place in Space available for free to download on Amazon today, March 27, 2015. She is also scheduling another free weekend for Astronomy Day on April 25, 2015.

Be sure to let us know what you think.

Related Activities:

1. Explore images of space objects at NASA and Amazing Space

Cats-eye-nebula-NASA(Cat’s Eye Nebula image from NASA)

 2. Shaving Cream Nebulae (plural form)

Model a nebula (singular form) by spraying a generous amount of shaving cream on a shower wall or bathroom mirror. Allow the child to swirl the nebula and form clumps (protostars and stars). Then the stars can “explode” to form a nebula again.

Note: Playing with shaving cream is a good pre-writing activity as well as introducing science vocabulary.


Disclosures: A .pdf copy of the book was provided by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

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Bug of the Week: Insects on Zinnas Continued

What are on the zinnias this week?

In just one week a number of insects have “colonized” the zinnias.


Some aphids have come over from the local sunflowers. (Sunflower aphids, Uroleucon helianthicola)


A lacebug has found the leaves. I see those all the time on brittlebush.

Am I worried about these insects on my zinnias? Not really, because along with the plant-feeding insects come the insect-feeding insects.


Look, there’s already an aphid mummy with a parasitic wasp inside.


Although it isn’t the best photo, there’s also a lacewing larva. Lacewing larvae eat insects like aphids and lacebugs in large quantities.

Did you see the katydid last week? It is gone now.

It is interesting and enlightening to observe a small group of plants closely over time.

Any guesses what might show up next week?

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Mystery Seed of the Week 242

It has been a hectic day, but Mystery Seed of the Week has finally arrived.


Not much to distinguish these seeds.


Hint:  the seeds color (black) is part of the plant’s name.

Do you recognize what plant these seeds are from? If you choose to, please leave a comment with your ideas.

Mystery Seed answers and new Mystery Seeds are posted on Tuesdays.

Posted in Seed of the Week | Tagged , | 2 Comments