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Did you know that 2009 has been the International Year of Astronomy? Let's wrap up the event with some astronomy-related activities.

1. Explore Meteor Showers:

Did you look for the Leonid meteor shower last month?

(Awesome copyright-free images of space-related objects available at Nasa Images.)

Meteor showers happen frequently throughout the year. Although looking for meteor showers requires getting up in the night and standing patiently in the cold and dark, the streaks of light flashing across the sky are well worth it. This month the Geminid Meteor Shower will center on December 14, 2009, radiating from the star Castor. Look for local information about the shower, because in some areas it may start around 9:00 p.m.

2. Build a Telescope:

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You might also want to try the International Year of Astronomy Discovery Guides. The first one is all about telescopes. You do have to register to download.

3. The Solar System

The recent changes in the definition of the planets of the solar system, with Pluto no longer considered to be a true planet, is a great example of how science works. As we gather more information, our ideas change.

Here's a fun video that explains "Why Isn't Pluto A Planet Any More?"

Where to find more information and things to do:

Space Activity Links

NASA's Planets and the Solar System has such hands on activities such as build a moon habitat and asteroid potatoes (they do look like potatoes!).

The Solar System at KidsAstronomy.com

Constellations for Kids at Astronomy for Kids Online

Exploring Space Without a Spacesuit at Leaping from the Box

Pick up a great book:

(For information about my affiliation with Amazon, see the Disclosure page.)

As if National Chemistry Week wasn't enough science this week, the Orionid Meteor Shower is also expected to peak on Wednesday, October 21. For more information, check The 2009 Orionid Meteor Shower page at NASA or keep an eye on SpaceWeather.com. If you have never watched a meteor shower, it is fantastic! Bundle up, find a nice dark place to observe the sky, and if possible, spread out on a lawn chair, the ground or the back of a pick-up truck with some blankets or sleeping bags. When the meteors are active it can be better than fireworks. No guarantees, though, so prime your children to be patient or also do the star count at the same time (see next).

If you and your family are interested in stars right now, it is also time for the Great Worldwide Star Count. This international event encourages everyone to go outside, look skywards after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations and report what they see online between October 9 and 23, 2009.

Let's hope for clear nights this week. Let me know what you see.