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We have two space science-related events next weekend, August 11-12, 2018.

1. Parker Solar Probe Launch

First up, on Saturday August 11, 2018 NASA is going to launch the Parker Solar Probe. The probe will travel close to the sun and gather data about it, including information about the sun's corona. Scientists are curious about the corona because temperatures measured there are hotter than at the surface of the sun and they want to know why.

Photograph of the sun's corona during a solar eclipse (NASA)

This probe is special because it has to withstand super hot temperatures. Scientists and engineers came up with a specially-designed heat shield and used water in a device like a car's radiator to keep the equipment on board from frying.

You can see more details in this video from NASA:

Hear more about it in the Why Is The Sun’s Corona Hotter Than Its Surface? podcast at Science Friday.

Related activity:

Capture the sun's energy using a solar oven (WikiHow or HomeScienceTools).

2. Perseid Meteor Shower

What is a meteor shower or "shooting star?"

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a "cloud" of bits of rocks or dust left over from a passing comet or asteroid. If a particle enters the atmosphere, it creates a streak of light as it burns up. The debris cloud for the Perseid shower comes from the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are named because they appear to originate in the constellation named Perseus.

The Perseids are the best meteor showers for viewing with children for a number of reasons. First of all, they occur in summer so temperatures at night is usually at more comfortable than for the fall or winter showers. Most children are out of school, so there are no worries about staying up on a school night. Also, the Perseids are some of the most reliable showers and last over at least two nights. This year is going to be especially good viewing because light from the moon is not going to interfere.

If you have never watched a meteor shower, it is fantastic! When the meteors are active it can be better than fireworks. 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. No need for binoculars or telescope, because the meteors move too quickly to follow.

Because this is a natural event, there are no guarantees the meteors will be frequent. Prime your children to be patient or do the Constellation Detective activity (PDF link) at the same time.

Related posts:

Three astronomy activities

Want more? See our growing list of children's books about planets and the solar system.

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For STEM Friday we are keeping with the astronomy theme with an amazing book about the universe written for young adults (ages 13+).

It is often difficult to find good nonfiction science books for young adults. By the time readers reach their teen years, if they are interested in science they are often forced to resort to reading books written for adults. That is why we were excited to find Our Universe Revealed: A Cosmic Exploration by E. L. Strauss, which targets this under-served age group.

Skimming through this book, the first thing you notice are the awe-inspiring illustrations.

milky-way-large( - Public Domain)

How can a reader not be enticed to want to explore the universe after looking at photographs of the Milky Way like this one?

Our understanding of the universe is changing rapidly. Strauss guides the reader through a thorough introduction by relating unfamiliar and complex topics to more familiar ones. For example, how do scientists study the history of space? Strauss explains that the processes of uncovering clues are similar to those used here on Earth in the field of archeology, and then gives specific examples.

Do you know what a magnetar is? What about degenerate matter or population III stars? If these terms are unfamiliar, this book will introduce you to them. Strauss, however, doesn't just string together vocabulary words. The author also explains how the concepts fit in the bigger picture. As a case in point, Strauss shows how our ability to create better technology to explore the universe has greatly increased our body of knowledge.

Although - as the book summary states - Our Universe Revealed is "aimed at bright, gifted, curious and creative teens," it is also likely to appeal to adults who want a clear understanding of some of the most cutting-edge concepts in astronomy today. Nothing expands your mind like exploring the cosmos and this book is a wonderful way to start.

Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thinxygen; 1 edition (November 6, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0620683562
ISBN-13: 978-0620683562

Disclosure:  A .pdf was provided by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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

This week is filled with special celebrations. Wednesday was Earth Day, today is Arbor Day (see last Friday's post for suggestions for marking Arbor Day), and tomorrow, April 25, 2015, is Astronomy Day. What a great week to get out and celebrate nature and science!

Today, let's get ready for Astronomy Day.

What better way to explore the universe than through a good book? To get started, we have a middle grade nonfiction title: DK Eyewitness Books: Universe.

You are probably familiar with DK's Eyewitness series. The books are perfect for visual learners because they include fabulous illustrations against non-distracting white backgrounds. Also, the text is broken into well-organized chunks, allowing the reader to quickly access pertinent information without feeling overwhelmed.

This title starts with overviews of the history of our discoveries and also some of the chemistry and physics behind those discoveries. It then discusses some of the more familiar aspects of the universe, such as the moon, planets and solar system before moving into nebulae, star cycles, black holes, etc. In the back matter is a fact-filled discovery timeline of many important events in the field of astronomy.

We are rapidly learning more about our universe and a fresh new title from DK is a great way to keep current.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: DK Children (March 10, 2015)
ISBN-10: 146543187X
ISBN-13: 978-1465431875

Reminder: 

The children's picture book, A Place in Space, will be available for free to download at Amazon tomorrow. See our previous post for information and a link.

Looking for more children's books about astronomy? Try our lists organized by age level and genre at Science Books for Kids:

planet-books-buttonList of children's books about the planets, solar system and lunar landing

space-poetry-for-kidsChildren's Poetry Books about Space

 

stars-books-buttonAnd our list of books that explore beyond the solar system (under construction)

Do you have a favorite children's book about astronomy? Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Happy Arbor Day!

 

Disclosures: The book above was 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.