Recently, we featured a story time about the solar system for preschoolers. Today our activities are inspired by the upper-elementary/middle grade book Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System by Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock and illustrated by Chelen Écija. Check out our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil, for a review/details.
Suggested Activity to Accompany the Book: Stargazing
When is the last time you have gone outside at night and looked up at the stars? With less pollution haze, stargazing can be a fun activity right now. Be sure to follow local safety guidelines.
Some things you can point out to youngsters:
- The Moon – The Moon is currently waxing, which means you will gradually see more as it heads to the full moon on May 7, 2020. It will be the last “supermoon” of the year and is called the flower moon.
- Planets – Venus has been bright lately as the sun sets in the west. You should also be able to spot Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
- Constellations – Different constellations will be prominent depending on how clear your viewing is. Pollux and Castor show up in the west near nightfall. See various websites linked below for details.
- Comets– There are three comets in the skies this month; Atlas, Swan, and T2PANSTARRS. They probably won’t be bright enough to see without a telescope, but keep an eye on news reports just in case.
- Meteor showers– Last week the Lyrid meteor shower was in the news, but the lesser known Eta Aquarid meteor shower should be at its peak right before dawn Tuesday. Unfortunately, the moonlight will probably interfere with viewing all but the brightest meteors. Other large showers include the Perseids in mid-August and the Geminids in December.
- Human-made items – Most of us can recognize an airplane flying at night because of the blinking lights. What you might not have seen, however, are the Starlink satellites. These look like points of light that travel quickly in a definite path across the sky ( a photo). Once you spot one, you are likely to see them again and again. According to reports, they should be less visible as they tilt over time and later launches will have built in shades that are supposed to reduce visibility. See them while you can.
Websites for adults to learn more:
- Sky and Telescope’s This Week’s Sky at a Glance and Stargazing Basics
- Spaceweather.com focuses on Earth/Sun interactions, such as Northern lights (Auroras), but includes meteorites and other current events as well.
- Check out the celebration of the Hubble Telescope’s 30th birthday. Includes a fun interactive to see what images Hubble took on your birthday.
- TimeandDate.com has the positions of planets and constellations on specific times over your location with cool interactive animations.
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
See our growing list of children’s books about the solar system at Science Books for Kids.