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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.

If you have been following this blog very long, you know I am crazy about meteor showers. As a child, the most spectacular natural event I ever witnessed was the Northern Lights, but meteor showers were a close second. The best part is, you don't need any special equipment to see the show.

Although we tend hear the most about certain meteor showers, particularly the Perseid and the Geminid showers, several different meteor showers occur throughout the year. For example, from December 28, 2013 through January 12, 2014 is the Quadrantid meteor shower. Astronomers are predicting peak activity on the early morning, Friday January 3, 2014.

starry-night

(Starry Night photograph by Ronald Carlson obtained from PublicDomainPictures.net)

If you want to try viewing the Quadrantid meteor shower, plan on visiting a place that will be dark and allow an unobstructed view of the sky towards the north. The meteors should originate between the Big Dipper constellation and the North Star (see EarthSky for a diagram).

1. Remember, porch and street lights can fade out even the brightest meteors.
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 and keep chilly viewers warm.

Can't view outside? NASA will be streaming the Quadrantid meteor shower live.

Check to see if you might also be able to spot the International Space Station passing by.

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Related reading:

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland -reviewed at Wrapped in Foil

meteorite-to-museumMeteors are pieces of space flotsam that burn up in the atmosphere. Meteorites are similar, except they are large enough to remain intact and impact Earth.  This picture book follows the Peekskill Meteorite, which struck a car in Peekskill, New York on October 9, 1992.

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Publisher: Blue Apple Books (October 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1609052528
ISBN-13: 978-1609052522

Disclosure: This book was originally obtained for review electronically from Edelweiss, although I finished the review using a copy from my local public library. 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 not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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If you would like to share, we would love to hear if you are able to view this meteor shower. You can leave a message in the comments or on our FaceBook page.

 

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.