Outer space always fascinates the human mind. The curiosity to know the secrets of the universe is always there in the minds of humans. The human mind desires to learn about space and heavenly bodies.
People often go out of the house and look at the sky and try to understand the movement of the Moon and stars.
Along with the elders, children are also curious to know about the planetary constellation. But now, the chance has come to explore the space from your own home. Science has made so much progress today, and now you can get the ultimate pleasure of watching planets, stars, celestial motion, etc., from your home with your children.
You will be able to give your children the right education about Astronomy. Here we are providing a complete guide about Astronomy which will be helpful for you to explore the space from your house in very interesting ways.
Here’s what you need to know about Astronomy before exploring your Astronomy journey and observing the Sun, planets, stars, etc., in the sky above your head.
What is Astronomy?
Astronomy is the holistic study of the universe, such as the Sun, Moon, stars, planets, etc. A person who specializes in Astronomy or studies Astronomy is called an Astronomer. Astronomy is an old science. Since ancient times, Astronomers have continuously observed the night sky and learned many things that inspired the creation of the calendar.
In the historical era, Astronomers were fascinated by space and were deeply drawn to the sky and heavenly bodies. Astronomers discovered from their careful observation that it was possible to learn many things about what happens in the sky. With the increase in their knowledge about the universe, research on planet earth has become a part of the universe.
In ancient times, Astronomy was limited to visible objects, including the Sun, Moon, galaxies, etc., which could be seen with the naked eye. Now, the new generation’s astronomers are associated with the study of Astronomy of those objects in space that cannot be seen with the naked eyes with the help of various astronomical instruments.
Astronomers are trying to unravel some other hidden mystery of the universe. With the advancement of science, now there are lots of opportunities to learn about space and see planet constellations for common people. Because of the right practical stargazing opportunities, now even kids are eager to learn and see objects in the heavens.
Astronomy for Kids is an exciting and educational time to be spent with your kids. Children have a lot of curiosity about space. They are fascinated by spaceships and aliens. The most popular topics among kids include space, planets, and astronauts. Children will learn astronomy effectively if they understand the issues well. Moreover, practical activities enhance their imagination and excitement of exploring.
This guide will help you introduce your kids to Astronomy. You will get proper guidance on how to get your kids started with astronomy and stargazing. In Astronomy Journey, what kind of practical projects and activities you will be involved in with your kids are also detailed.
A. How To Find The Best Stargazing Spot And Time?
If you reside in a huge city, you will have little trouble finding a quiet and dark place. If buildings or big trees are blocking your view of the horizon, you should seek out an elevated vantage point where nothing can come between you and the horizon. If you live in a mountainous area, try to get up as high as possible.
The light of the star is scattered by the atmosphere, and therefore, if you go high enough, you can see the sky more clearly. On the other hand, if you live in a countryside or small town and have a garden or terrace in your home, your own home would be the best place to start stargazing with kids.
In addition, you need to be sure of the weather condition. For this, observe the weather forecast. This is because to see celestial objects; clearly, it is necessary to have a clear sky and atmosphere. It is best to choose the winter season for star viewing as there is little moisture in the air in that season, and the sky is clear during that season.
It ensures clear starry visibility. For stargaze, choose a new moon night instead of a quarter or full Moon. Many dim stars in the sky can be obscured by the full Moon.
B. How To Introduce Your Kids To Astronomy?
You’ll be able to view a huge number of stars, roughly 2,500 in the sky, if you can find a region with less pollution and choose a clear night.
- Use many tools that are more helpful to begin Astronomy for your kids. Numerous Apps are available that you can download on your computer or smartphone.
- These Apps help you see the night sky. Skyview and Stellarium are two such Apps that support the GPS function and enable you to point your smartphone in any direction. You can also determine which stars are visible at that location.
- If you are not very knowledgeable about the night sky, and you have just started Astronomy for kids, Apps for staraze will be very helpful for you.
- Both Apps can be set to start automatically at a specific time of day. You only need to fast forward a few hours to see what the sky will be like that night. You might start by highlighting the constellations and remembering a few of them.
- Once you have remembered a few constellations, please search for the bright planets, and try to remember where they were in relation to the constellations that night.
The most important thing is that you can take your mobile with you for observation. If you wish to know which is a specific star in the sky, you can use the GPS feature on your phone to point it in that direction. Make sure your phone’s brightness is turned down and that you’re using the night mode in both apps.
C. What To Look For And When?
Initially, you don’t need any special equipment to stargaze. If your location supports clear night sky viewing, you can begin your initial stargazing without any equipment. You have to find the constellations that you will be able to recollect.
- In the Northern Hemisphere, certain constellations, such as the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, etc., are always visible at night, while others are visible only in specific months. It completely depends on the position of the Sun and Earth.
- During winter, you can see the constellations of Taurus, Auriga, Orion, etc. At the same time, during summer, you observe the constellations of Cygnus, Smoke Ring Nebula, Lyra, Deneb, Dumbbell Nebula, Vega, etc.
- After you have had enough familiarity with the planets and constellations, your next step would be to purchase a good telescope for stargazing.
- With the help of a telescope, you will be able to observe galaxies, star clusters, etc. The visibility of deep-sky objects is greatly affected by the seasons and latitudes. Most sky objects remain in visibility for only a month.
- If you choose that particular month to stargaze, you can give your kids the best Astronomy experience by observing the galaxies and their location.
Spring is another season when the most amazing sky objects like Leo Triplet, Whirlpool, Virgo Cluster, etc., are clearly visible in the sky. Similarly, in autumn you will see some special
constellations, such as Andromeda Galaxy, Pleiades, Andromeda Galaxy, etc.
D. What Makes Astronomy So Good?
he most important feature is the relationship between the time of year and the constellations visible at night that former astronomers observed by looking at the night sky.
- With the expansion of your knowledge of Astronomy, you can recall, such as Sirius passed through the Southern Hemisphere at midnight on January 1.
- It is coded in the night origin of the stars. So, suppose you know this number available in any interactive sky map. In that case, you can tell at a particular specific time of year a particular star will be seen in a specific direction.
- If you know the time and date correctly, by looking at the sky, you will be able to tell which direction you are pointing.
Celestial navigation was previously used by sailors and pilots when GPS receivers were not present. Aviators depended on the Sun, the Moon, and many stars and planets with better visibility in the night sky to assist sailors.
E. What Do Kids Need For Stargazing?
When you have just started Astronomy for your kids, go outside and just look at the stars in the sky with your eyes. Then, you can think about buying a high-quality telescope. Make sure your telescope has a high-quality lens, a set of two eyepieces, and a rock-solid mount for better stargazing. The two main types of telescopes are lens-based refractors and reflectors. If your budget is small, you can buy a pair of binoculars (7×50 – standard size for stargazing).
F. How To Get Kids Interested In Astronomy?
- Start your Astronomy journey with the kids from the Moon’s location. The right time to observe the Moon’s surface is when it is the quarter Moon. You can use telescopes or binoculars.
- Focus on the boundary line, which is between the light and dark side of the Moon, according to National Geographic. This is because the region offers excellent views of the long shadow mountain ranges.
- With your naked eyes, you will be able to clearly see two different regions of the Moon, including the light region and the dark region. The dark areas called maria were once considered to be seas and oceans, while the weak spots were called terra.
- You can inspire your kids to tell the story of the Apollo 13 astronauts who orbited the Moon more than 50 years ago.
- Another great idea to get kids excited about Astronomy is to let them create an Astronomy-themed project.
- Let your kids take pictures of the Moon since the moon cycles via its monthly processes. You can frame the photo with foreground objects to design the photo appealing.
Apart from this, you can search for the International Space Station. When visibility is better from either location, the International Space Station or ISS will be brightly visible to the naked eye as it rises in the east and sets rapidly in the east.
A great way for you to know when the ISS passes overhead from your place is to register to “Spot the Station,” NASA’s free App. The App alerts you when the ISS is visible from your location.
Alerts are usually sent multiple times per month when the station’s orbit is close to your place. Moreover, with the help of a telescope or binoculars, you can then go to the planets, starting with the Jupiter Planet,
- Finally, observe meteor showers. According to Michael Howard, “Nothing gets a child more excited about stargazing than watching fiery pieces of interplanetary debris streak through a constellation .”
- To get your kids interested in Astronomy, you can also utilize the resource of Meteor Shower Maps. Maps enable you to schedule stargazing nights for ultimate effect.
G. Arts Project
There are myriad art and craft projects to get you and your family involved in Astronomy. Here are some samples.
1. Constellation Cards
Try designing simple and beautiful constellation cards. When your kids learn the facts behind the constellations, they can also try to make constellation cards.
2. Planetarium Jar Lamp
With a few household materials, such as aluminum foil, a jar, and LED lights, you can create the atmosphere of the night sky inside. Your kids will be involved in this fun project and take an interest in Astronomy.
3. Planets Board Game
This board game is a good choice for your kids to introduce them to the universe. So, make your own planets board game and give your kids a chance to learn about the solar system in a fun way.
4. Marshmallow Constellations
This practical activity is a great project that will help your kids teach celestial objects.
5. Sun Paintings
It is a combined craft of art and science. Painting the Sun with bright colors improves the creativity of your kids. Through sun painting, they can learn about the Sun, eclipse, solar flares, etc. Also, they can realize the significance of the Sun in the heavenly bodies.
6. Model Magic Planets
Learning about planets and making planet models will be great fun for kids. Using Styrofoam Balls, you can easily create your solar system model.
H. Stargazing Tools
There are a few tools that can make your stargazing experience more effective and easier. You don’t need much more expensive equipment to complete your astronomy journey. Here are the details about the equipment.
You must have an efficient telescope for the ultimate stargazing experience. You can find various options in Telescope. You need to be sure of the size when buying. The telescope allows you to take clear pictures of the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets.
2. Perfect Telescope For Kids And Beginners
When you buy a telescope for your kids, make sure your telescope is lightweight, convenient, and easy to use. The telescope should have a sturdy tripod for the convenience of children to look up into the sky. This would be the best telescope for kids and beginners, which has a carrying case.
Obviously, telescopes are better than binoculars. However, if you cannot carry binoculars under certain circumstances, you can opt for binoculars. Binoculars are also helpful for you to see the night sky. You can see stars more clearly with a wider field of view.
4. Smartphones And Apps
There are great apps that help make stargazing more effective. You can take advantage of the Apps by installing them on your smartphone and looking at the stars and planets with the help of the Apps. These Apps use your mobile’s cameras as you point it to the heavens. With the help of Apps, you can read many things faster in galaxies.
5. App Recommendations
Skyview is an excellent App that allows you to identify everything in the sky with your smartphone’s camera. Another great App is the Star Chart App which offers an augmented truth format that makes studying constellations straightforward and exciting for kids and adults alike.
I. Best Websites for Stargazing
There are some best websites that are helpful to view the planets and constellations and learn many things properly. They include,
- Light Pollution Map: Helps to determine the best places in your area to observe the celestial objects
- The Naked Eye Planets: Helps to detect planets
- Moon Calendar: Good for watching the Moon
- Space.com: Ideal for planets, Moon, stars, news, gadgets, and more
- The ISS Tracker: Helpful in locating the International Space Station
- The Sky Live: Best for tracking planets as well as comets
J. Astronomy Books
- ‘Seth Fishman’ and ‘A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars’ – are the best Astronomy books for 4-8 years of kids
- ‘Sheryl Racine’ and ‘Kathi Wagner’ – are best for 9-12 years old kids.
- ‘Look Inside Space’ and ‘Rob Lloyd Jones’ – helps in Astronomy for 3+ years kids.
K. Educational Resources
- The “Astronomical Society of the Pacific” – manages a long list of practical activities
- “NASA Kids’ Club – an interactive educational space that enables your kids to practice driving the Mars Rover and gain knowledge about the International Space Station
- “Gift of Curiosity” – designed to teach kids all about the universe
L. Astronomy Journal
An astronomy journal is a brilliant way to note down your viewing experience of celestial objects. A journal helps you track the things you see on the stars and planets from home. You can create your own journal as you wish. But, it’s important to note what you find in the sky and the date.
You can include things in your journals, such as the time of night and weather and where and when you see new things. Make your Astronomy Journal stand out by designing images of the Sun, stars, planets, etc. Your journal will be beneficial for your kids to learn Astronomy.
M. Stargazing Tips
To make you and your kids stargazing easy and enjoyable, we are providing a few stargazing tips. These will be useful for you.
- Directly look at the Moon in the sky and learn about the phases, such as waxing, gibbous, and waning, and observe when they change.
- Strictly keep your one eye on the Sun when it rises above the horizon. Observe and remember well how the Sun’s direction changes daily and how it moves on seasons changing.
- Carry out your stargazing without using any extra lights. Moreover, you can plan a camping trip with your family to spend some quality time at any best place to stargaze.
- Through the game, you can carry out how many comets you can see when they travel through the sky.
- Look directly at the Moon in the sky and learn about the phases, such as waxing, gibbous, and waning, and see when they change.
- When the Sun rises above the horizon, keep a strict eye on the Sun. Observe carefully and remember how the direction of the Sun changes daily and how it moves when the seasons change.
- Keep up your stargazing without any extra lights. Also, you can plan a camping trip with your family to spend some quality time at any best place for stargazing.
You may think that you need a huge amount for your Astronomy journey, and you are not going ahead because of the hefty expenses, so we would like to tell you that you can get complete knowledge about Astronomy at minimum cost. Here we bring you 10 useful tips to enjoy your Astronomy with minimal cost.
10 Useful Tips for Astronomy On A Shoestring Budget
If you want to have the best experience of your Astronomy journey on a shoestring budget, it is better for you to follow the 10 tips that we are going to elaborate underneath.
To bring perfection in the matter of Astronomy, you have to gather all the information, so that you do not have any problem in the middle. Where to start the journey, what to consider during the journey, what equipment is needed are all important factors that make an Astronomy journey successful and smooth.
If you are a beginner, and jump into Astronomy without any prior preparation, you will be in trouble instead of pleasure. Our tips below cover everything that will give you an idea of making your first-time Astronomy journey exciting on a shoestring budget.
1. Join a Group
It’s best to join a local online group for beginners to Astronomy. You will find many open groups on Facebook. In the group, you will find many same-minded local people who are interested in Astronomy. From the posts of people involved in Astronomy, you will find many useful pointers and advice that help you identify celestial objects. Apart from this, you will get excellent photos and ideas for nearby places which ensure a pollution-free environment.
2. Start with the Space Station
Start your Astronomy journey from the space station. If you’re a beginner, start your Astronomy journey as a hobby by tracking the nearest object, the International Space Station. You don’t need to invest in expensive telescopes here. You can see the space station with binoculars or even with the naked eye.
You can visit the ISS Tracker website. It shows the current location of the space station. You are allowed to type in your location on the NASA website, and you will be able to see when the next time it is for your area. The website will send you email alerts, so you don’t miss out on seeing the space station.
You can choose the time of early morning or after sunset to view the space station. This time is at its best because the earth is shadowed, but the space station is still shining. The space station will cross your area when it is a cloudy day or a dark night.
3. Track and Watch the Moon
It would help if you looked at the Moon for a while from an area with low levels of pollution. To view the Moon correctly, it would be best to use a better pair of binoculars. No need to spend a big amount on this. You can find binoculars at low prices on eBay.
On the website Moonphases.co.uk, you will be able to see the phases of the Moon, including New Moon, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Waxing Crescent, Full Moon, and Waning Gibbous, which will be visible over the next few days.
In addition, the website provides a calendar where you can see more in the future. It is indeed a great website for Astronomers as well as photographers.
4. Take Your First Look At The Planets
You will be able to see 5 planets with your naked eyes. You don’t need to use any binoculars. The planets include Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn. All the planets are present at 7 degrees of the eclipse, which determines that the solar system is flat. There is an effective website, The Sky Live, on which you can track the planets as well as the comets in the solar system. You should be careful to select the perfect time to view the planets.
5. Use Star Maps And Charts To Compare Your Sightings
You have the flexibility of using a digital App with 3D star maps or a traditional atlas with printed maps. But, we recommend that you use a paper map. Remembering the stars will be more helpful in your initial Astronomy journey.
You need to compare every object that you see with your naked eyes or with the help of binoculars or telescopes with the help of star maps.
This is a significant part of your Astronomy journey. You’ll memorize the constellations fast, which may surprise you, and you can detect the planets sooner. Note that the path of the planets and their positions are completely predictable as compared to the constellations.
6. View Pollution Maps
Pollution in the environment greatly affects your stargazing. Two types of pollution, namely light pollution and too much stray light pollution, influence the appearance of constellations in the sky. Light pollution comes from towns and cities that can block out dim light from the sky.
During your travels, you may have sometimes seen it in the countryside or in a low light area where the stars are bright in the sky. On the other hand, stray light pollution is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, especially in vehicles and industries. The smoke produced by excessive burning of fossil fuels and clouds in the sky combines to form smog that distorts the light of celestial objects.
Therefore, you should check pollution maps. You can view the light pollution map on the lightpollutionmap.info website. Here you can see areas of light pollution or stray light pollution and areas free from light pollution. Choose a light pollution-free area for better sky-gazing.
7. Selecting Your First Telescope
The right equipment is critical to effective stargazing. We are providing a brief guide on what features your telescope should have or what you should consider when choosing your first telescope.
- Portability: Telescopes come with different specifications, sizes, weights, and mechanisms. Make sure your device has high functionality with a simple mechanism. Also, the telescope should be portable so that you can carry it comfortably. High-quality telescopes ensure clear visibility of celestial objects from afar.
- Second-hand telescopes: Many people start their Astronomy journey as a hobby and lose their enthusiasm after a few days. So, in that case, investing big money in a new telescope would not be smart work. Start your stargazing with a quality second-hand telescope. If you want to take your Journey to its last step, you may want to consider buying a new telescope later.
- Camera Capability: You will definitely want to capture pictures of planets, stars, the Moon, etc., through your telescope. Therefore, your telescope camera must have the ability to snap clear images of constellations. Make sure your telescope is compatible with a DSLR camera with a sturdy mount.
8. Use Apps & Websites
Apps and websites are the most helpful tools that make your stargazing easy, effective, and cost-effective. There are many powerful apps and websites available that we have mentioned above in the article. They are specially designed to provide the best platform for the beginners for sky-gazing and help them in their astronomy journey. You can download a few Apps to your smartphone or sign up for websites to get detailed instructions for Astronomy.
9. Books, Charts, and Gifts, and Other Items
The planisphere is one of the best items you can buy. This will be helpful for your stargazing. You’ll find plenty of options in the Planisphere. But, we recommend you Philip’s Planisphere. It is a perfect item for beginners and easy to use.
This low-cost Planisphere helps you make amazing strides in exploring the wonders of the night sky. Apart from this, you can use good Astronomy books, maps, and charts to discover the wonders of the universe.
10. Free Online Courses
You can take advantage of free online courses to make your Astronomy journey more simple and enjoyable. There are many YouTube channels on Astronomy, where you’ll find a myriad of tutorials or instructional videos. One notable YouTube channel is Crash Course Astronomy, where you will find over 45 videos in the form of a series of Astronomy. The series begins with the introduction of Astronomy and then rapidly moves toward the planets. You can see everything with your naked eye.
From early civilizations, people were very curious about space, and they used to try to see the Sun, Moon, stars, comets, and galaxies with the naked eye. With the advancement of science and technology, there are many Astronomical instruments and resources available to make your Astronomy journey helpful, more effective, and easier.
But, still, it has something where science is helpless, and it is possible to observe many such things in the nighttime sky without any equipment. Here we are providing a brief naked eye Astronomy guide where you can see many celestial bodies without the help of any telescope or binoculars.
A. What Exactly is Naked-Eye Astronomy?
Naked eye Astronomy implies the studies of the starry sky, including any equipment, like telescopes. But stargazing with the naked eye would be limited.
Telescopes and lenses allow you to view plenty of objects in the sky that you can’t see with the naked eye.
B. The Objects You Can See With Naked Eye
1. The Moon
The size of the moon is a quarter of the size of the earth, which has attained the position of the largest natural satellite of the universe. Lunar eclipses are common events that we sometimes see from Earth. With your naked eyes, you can easily see some dark grey and light gray areas of the Moon. The moon’s gray areas are dry lava beds called seas, while the light gray ones include clusters of mountainous highlands.
2. The Space Station
This is another object that can be easily seen with your naked eye. You just need to know at what exact time the space station will cross your region..
3. Star Constellations
According to the official list, there are about 88 constellations. They are indeed internationally recognized star patterns. You will be able to see the constellations with the naked eye.
4. Five Planets
There will definitely be much enthusiasm for beginners to see the planets. Well, you will be able to get to see five planets including Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Mercury. Venus will be visible as a glowing dot in the western sky at night, while Jupiter, Mars, and, Saturn will appear as colorful dots on the horizon.
Mercury is the farthest planet from the Sun, so it is harder to see than the other planets noted above. Extreme temperatures would be the perfect weather to explore Mercury.
Meteors are actually dust particles, rocks, and pieces of ice spinning around in outer space. They are also known as shooting stars. The meteors can spin from 30,000 km to 60,000 km per hour. Due to gravitational force Meteors sometimes are pulled towards the planet. Meteors can be viewed with maked eye. Meteors don’t actually have any connection to the stars.
6. Noctilucent Clouds
Clouds are not given much importance in Astronomy. However, clouds are beautiful objects in space that can be considered a part of the Astronomy journey. In the season from May to July, an amazing cloud form appears in the night sky which you can see with your naked eye.
C. How To Avoid Smog And Light Pollution?
Smog and light pollution are two great obstacles to effective stargazing. If your location is inside the International Dark Sky Reserve, you are really lucky as the night sky is usually brighter in this area. In contrast, if you live in a city with extreme sources of light, you will miss out on many celestial objects you can view in the sky.
In such a situation, a telescope and a good camera is the best solution for skygazing. However, with the help of a pollution map you can find out the best location in your region which is not affected by excessive light pollution.
The smog pollution that will cover a particular place can also be predicted. Defra Produce excellent smog, one of the best UK organizations to assist you detect when any place won’t be affected by smog, and which conditions are perfect for Astronomy.
Stargazing is really an exciting and enjoyable exercise that you can try once. Now, stargazing is very simple as there are innumerable resources available to make sky-gazing more effective. Hope our detailed Astronomy guide will be helpful in guiding you in stargazing with your kids.