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Weekend Science Fun: Astronomy in the News

This weekend astronomy is in the news, with several events to spike a child's interest.

1. Mars Rover Curiosity is landing on Mars on Sunday, August 5, 2012.

Why is this rover newsworthy? Curiosity is bigger than the previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and is landing in a more difficult location. It is also carrying a lot of more sophisticated equipment, including, believe it or not, ovens to bake soil and rock samples. Part of Curiosity's mission is to look for carbon, the element that is an important building block for living things. If all goes well, it could be exploring and sending back data for a couple of years.

See live reports of the Mars Rover landing tomorrow night at the Jet Propulsion Lab

NASA also has information and updates

If your children are excited about Mars and the rovers, there are several wonderful children's books to find out more:

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity (Scientists in the Field Series) by Elizabeth Rusch  -released June 19, 2012

Middle-grade level

Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet by Alexandra Siy

Middle-grade level

You Are the First Kid on Mars
by Patrick O’Brien
This picture book really stretches the definition of nonfiction, because it details an imaginary trip to Mars. The scientific details and photorealistic illustrations are what make it credible.

They all seem to have Mars red covers.

2. The Perseid Meteor Shower

Towards the middle of August will be an opportunity to view the annual Perseid meteor shower. Although it has already started, astronomers are predicting the nights of August 11, 12 and 13, 2012 will have the best viewing because that is when the brightness of the moon will interfere the least.

The Perseids are usually the easiest meteor shower to view because it is still warm out at night. No need for coats and heavy blankets.

Tips:
1. Try to find a place that is fully dark for best viewing. Porch and street lights can fade out the meteors, preventing sightings.
2. Remind your children there may be several minutes between sightings. In the wee hours of the morning it can be hard to be patient.
3. Blankets and lawn chairs that allow for viewing in a prone position help prevent neck strain.

Enjoy!

EarthSky has more viewing information

Tonight's Sky has a longer video that reveals other stars and constellations to be on the look out for.

Two full moons in one month? Cool!

3. Hands-on Astronomy Activities

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) website has two Astronomy lessons with hands on activities

The lessons are over multiple pages that sometimes don't have obvious links between, so check the sidebars and under the title of each page for the links to the next page. Let me know if you have difficulty navigating and I'll add all the links here.

Let us know if you have any other favorite Astronomy websites.

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