Astronomy

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For our regular STEM Friday feature we recommend two books about trees for children, just in time for Arbor Day, next Friday April 24, 2015. (Read the rest of the reviews and see a video book trailer at Wrapped in Foil blog.) Then we'll finish out Butterfly Gardening With Children Week with a discussion of trees for butterfly gardens.

The first book, Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World by Joan Marie Galat and illustrated by Wendy Ding (2014), describes a particular species of tree, how it used by humans, and what animals depend on that kind of tree in a series of four-page spreads. The 11 species of trees highlighted range from red maples and downy birches to pau brasil and cork oaks.

The second book, Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World by Margi Preus and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (2011), consists of a series of two-page spreads telling the stories of 14 famous, tall and exceptionally-old trees from around the world, the back matter gives more information about the trees and a number of suggestions about what the reader can do to help and encourage trees.

Appropriate for butterfly gardening week:  In the section about oak trees in the back matter of this book, we find out that a single large oak tree can support up to 34 species of butterflies!

That fact reminds us that although growing pretty flowers helps the adult butterflies, to have a truly productive butterfly garden you need to supply food for caterpillars as well.

Many beautiful species of butterflies require trees as larval hosts.

Examples:

1. Hackberry trees (Celtis species) are larval food for

  • Tawny emperor butterflies
  • Hackberry emperor butterflies
  • Mourning cloak butterflies
  • Question Mark butterflies
  • Snout butterfly

mystery-butterfly-2-identicationThe snout butterfly

Hackberry_Emperor,_Megan_McCarty46Hackberry emperor butterfly (Public domain photograph by Megan McCarty)

(Seed of the Week post about Canyon Hackberry)

2. Live oaks are larval food for California sister butterfly larvae.

California-sister-butterflyCalifornia sister butterfly, Ramsey Canyon, Arizona

Some duskywings and hairstreaks also use oaks for food.

3. Black cherry (Prunus serotina) trees are larval food for:

  • Red-spotted purple
  • Eastern tiger swallowtail
  • Coral hairstreak

4. Citrus trees (orange, lemon grapefruit) attract numerous giant swallowtails. Their larvae are called orange dog caterpillars.

caterpillar-orange-dogAn orange dog caterpillar on a grapefruit leaf

In addition to larval food, trees provide shelter for butterflies (and a multitude of other animals), provide safe places for the caterpillars to pupate, and some flowering trees supply nectar for many more adult butterflies.

In his book, Bringing Nature Home, entomologist  Doug Tallamy gives a list of how many species of butterflies and moths are supported by 21 kinds of trees. The numbers are astonishing! He says oak trees (genus Quercus) provide food for some 534 different species of butterflies and moths. Given that those butterflies are important pollinators and parts of the food web, that is an enormous contribution.

Activity:

If you are going to plant a tree for Arbor Day or any other event, consider choosing a local species that will host butterflies. You will get yet another benefit from a tree. Please leave a comment if you have any questions about how to choose a suitable butterfly host tree for your area.

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Wrap-ups:

 This is the final post for Butterfly Gardening with Children Week. Hope you enjoyed it. If you missed the previous posts from the week, check our links page for topics we covered.

butterfly-gardening-with-children

Interested in reading more great books about trees for Arbor Day? Try our giant, redwood-sized list of children's books about trees at Science Books for Kids.

tree-books-button

 

Disclosures: The books above were from my local library. 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.

 

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. Will 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.

May is shaping up to be a wonderful month to study the night sky. After the Eta Aquarid meteor shower at the first part of the month (debris from Halley's Comet, no less), we can now look forward to a never-before-seen shower on the night of May 23-May 24, 2014.

meteor-shower-may-24-2014

Way back in the 1800s, a small comet named Comet 209P/LINEAR jettisoned some debris. The Earth will be passing through this debris field on Friday night, May 23 through the morning of Saturday May 24, 2014. Some scientists are predicting that the dust entering the atmosphere will create an amazing new meteor shower. Of course, because it is a brand new event, no one knows for sure what we'll be seeing. If it works out, the meteors are expected to come from the northern sky, appearing to arise in the constellation Camelopardalis or near the North Star. The shower is expected to peak around 2-4 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

This video from NASA explains more:

 

 

Some viewing tips:
1. Find a safe location with as few outdoor lights as possible. Remember, porch and street lights can fade out even the brightest meteors.
2. Remind your children there may be several minutes or more between sightings. In the wee hours of the morning it can be hard to be patient. Point out constellations and major stars to help pass the time and keep interest up.
3. Blankets and lawn chairs that allow for viewing in a prone position help prevent neck strain and keep chilly viewers warm.

Just think, you will be seeing the bright lights in the sky that result from pieces of a comet left behind over 100 years ago. How cool is that?

EarthSky has more about the meteor shower and viewing times.

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If learning about the meteor shower thrills your budding astronomers, we have two new books by Mary Kay Carson that might also interest them.

Did you know one of the planets in the solar system has a storm cloud that has been named Scooter? Or that one planet used to be called George? Those are just some of the amazing facts the reader will find out about in How Many Planets Circle the Sun?: And Other Questions about Our Solar System (Good Question!) by Mary Kay Carson and illustrated by Ron Miller.

The text is written in an engaging question-and-answer format so the reader can choose to read cover to cover, or jump in and pick out those questions that are most intriguing. For example, are you interested in learning more about comets and meteor showers? On page 27, Carson explains what comets and meteors are and how they are related.

Some of Miller's colorful illustrations are so realistic, it seems like the reader could reach out and touch a planet.

Age Range: 6 and up
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books (January 7, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1454906693
ISBN-13: 978-1454906698

Why Does Earth Spin?: And Other Questions about Our Planet (Good Question!) also by Mary Kay Carson and illustrated by Peter Bull comes down to Earth to explain common questions children ask, such as why the sky is blue and why the moon is important to the Earth. A mixture of full-color photographs and artist's renditions help clarify details like the relative sizes of the Earth and other planets. This one would be perfect for a unit on Earth Science.

Age Range: 6 and up
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books (January 7, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1454906758
ISBN-13: 978-1454906759

Conclusion: The question-and-answer format works well in both these books. I will definitely be adding them to my list of space and astronomy books for children at Science Books for Kids.

Please leave a comment if you see any meteors on May 23-24!

Disclosures:  These books were won in a giveaway contest. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon, and 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.