Are your kids bored of the same old toys and activities? Here’s an idea that’ll keep them engaged and interested for a long time: Just look up.
Click start to play today’s Word Search, where you can spot a whole constellation of stars.
People have been stargazing for eons, and the wonders of the night sky still haven’t ceased to amaze. In today’s age, it’s an accessible activity for families, and a great way to teach kids about astronomy.
So, what do you need to get started? First, an unobstructed view. Head to higher ground, away from city lights, once the sun goes down. To view stars, an April 2020 report in National Geographic states that all you really need are your eyes. But binoculars and telescopes can enhance the experience.
You can also check out helpful apps that publish updated forecasts about when to spot the International Space Station (ISS) and other bright satellites orbiting above, as well as apps that generate monthly charts of where all the brightest stars can be seen. There are even planetarium apps that allow you to hold up your phone and plot out constellations and planetary positions.
Now that you’re all set up, start off with the moon. It’s the most easily visible space object closest to Earth. Ask kids if they can spot the bright, light-coloured patches on the lunar surface – they’re home to 20,000-foot mountain ranges and highlands filled with craters that are as big as cities on Earth.
The best time to check out it out, is when there’s a quarter-moon, or when its disc is half-lit. The boundary line between the lit and unlit sections feature incredible shadows created by jagged mountain ranges and crater rims. Get kids wondering, how would Apollo 13 astronauts have felt when they peered out of their space shuttle at this strange, foreign sight?
Next, pay a visit to our neighbours in the solar system. With the naked eye, we can easily see up to five planets on evenings and early mornings throughout the year, from anywhere in the world: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Can your kids guess which planet corresponds to which bright spot in the sky? While Jupiter is the brightest, Saturn is a golden-yellow colour and Mars is a faint red because of the dust covering its surface. Just like Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei first observed Jupiter with the newly invented telescope, over 400 years ago, have your kids hold up binoculars to view this planet, and its four largest moons.
Finally, expand your view to the rest of the stars. In the Northern Hemisphere, one of the most famous star patterns to observe is the Big Dipper, in the constellation Ursa Major (translating to ‘big bear’ in Latin). Your kids can look for the Dipper’s ‘bowl’, which seems to pour its contents onto Earth. From there, spot the next brightest star, Polaris (or the north star), which is part of the Ursa Minor (‘little bear’) constellation.
Even more spectacular is the collective view of the Milky Way, which is perhaps the first sight you’ll notice on a dark night. Its ghostly glow envelopes millions of stars arching across the sky – a sight that’s certain to inspire your child’s interest in journeying across the universe.