Tag: astronomy (Page 2 of 4)

Quadrantid Meteor Shower Ramping Up For 2014

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 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.


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.


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.


Science Poetry Books: Exploring Astronomy

It’s STEM Friday and we’re hosting this week. It’s time to soar with STEM poetry books about astronomy.

Note:  Title links take you to more information at Amazon.


When my son was small, we discovered Blast Off: Poems About Space (I Can Read), compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (1995). The book features the poem “Children of the Sun” by Brod Bagert, which starts:

“Mercury’s small
Almost nothing at all.
Venus is bright and near…”

It was a wonderful way to memorize both a poem and the names of the planets. Of course it is slightly out of date because Pluto is no longer a planet, but many of the others in the collection are still ring true and clear.

As of today, the poems from Blast Off are available for reading on the Internet.


Out of This World: Poems and Facts about Space by Amy Sklansky and illustrated by Stacey Schuett (2012) really lives up to its name. The poems are fun, creative and absolutely perfect for kids. For example, in the poem “Zero Gravity” some of the lines are flipped over. How creative!

Each poem is accompanied by a black sidebar labeled “Fact” that explains scientific concepts or fills in the history of events that are mentioned.


You could teach a robust unit on STEM poetry with just Douglas Florian’s fabulous books. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings (2007) is probably the one most geared to older children.

Personally, I love Florian’s playful style and fun-filled illustrations. In this book there are cut out circles in some of the pages that move images from one page to another, some playing with changes in scale while doing so. For example, the planet Mercury is a cut out that reveals the much larger Venus on the page behind it.



And Then There Were Eight: Poems about Space (Poetry) (A+ Books: Poetry) by Laura Purdie Salas (2008) is fresh and lively. Salas is devoted to her craft, and presents poems in different forms, and then explains each in the backmatter. This book would work well for a unit on poetry as it does for a unit on space.



Although not a collection of poems, the rhyming couplets in Roaring Rockets (Amazing Machines) by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker (2000) are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

Are you ready to try science poetry now? Do you have any favorite poetry books about space that aren’t on the list? We’d love to hear about them!

Related activity: Exploring Space Without a Spacesuit.

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

What’s Happening in Astronomy This Month

November is packed with great opportunities to learn more about astronomy.

Event 1. Parts of northern Australia will be experiencing a solar eclipse, on November 14, 2012 (their time), which is roughly 5:00 p.m. EST November 13 in the U.S.

This video from NASA shows why astronomers are traveling to Australia for the eclipse. It is an unique opportunity to study the inner corona of the sun.

The excitement generated by an eclipse is often a good time to introduce age-specific information about the sun and our solar system.

From the comments on the first video, it seemed like there were a lot of misunderstanding about solar eclipses. I looked up this second video that is helpful in explaining why solar eclipses don’t happen all the time.

Event 2. Meteor showers

Two meteor showers have potential in November. The Northern Taurid shower peaks aound midnight on Monday November 12, 2012 and the annual Leonid meteor shower is due to appear on November 17, 2012.

Looking for a deeper involvement? NASA also has an extensive list of citizen science projects. Some, like the Rock Around the World, are definitely child-friendly.

A new children’s book:

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space (First Big Books) by Catherine D. Hughes and illustrated by David A. Aguilar

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