Space Science for Summer!

Summer is a great time to grab a blanket and head out to a dark spot to watch the stars! And if you’re lucky, you’ve got access to a telescope and can get an up-close view of the moon and many other celestial objects.

While skies are often clearer during the winter because there’s less haze in the atmosphere, summers are definitely more comfortable for kids to be outside late at night. The air is warm, and there’s usually less of an urgency about bedtimes since there isn’t school to get up for in the morning. Pack some snacks and a star guide and you’ve got a terrific outing for families, camps, homeschool groups—anyone!

In this booklet, we’ll take a look at some ways to make your astronomy nights a success. From working on Citizen Science projects to tips on what to bring and where to go for star gazing, you’ll find a wealth of information here.

Look up, and enjoy!

Cool Space Websites for Spacey Kids

Want to go to space? Only a few people get to travel to the stars, but that doesn’t mean space is completely unreachable! Armed with little more than a computer and our imaginations, there are plenty of ways we can travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Read on for some cool space websites for kids (and adults!) who like a little bit of space mixed in with their days on Earth.

  • Want a taste of the wonders of space every day? Set your homepage to NASA’s “Image of the Day” and get treated to a new beautiful picture of space, science, and scientific exploration every day.
  • Join the NASA Kid’s Club for fun online and offline activities aimed at teaching kids about the science of space and space travel.
  • If YouTube had an award for “breakout Astronaut vlogger,” it would most certainly go to Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who invited us all to experience the wonder of space with him aboard the International Space Station. His “Astronaut’s Guide to Life in Space” contains 49 short videos he filmed that show everything from how to brush your teeth in zero-g, to what happens if you get sick thousands of miles above the earth.

Look Up! And Down! Astronomy Sites for Kids

Does your kid love to stargaze? It’s a great moment when kids look up and around and discover that the universe is a really huge place. It’s such a huge place that it can be intimidating. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Most of us are fascinated by the skies, especially when we’re younger. A little help in navigation can go a long way toward sustaining kids’ interest and really learning about the objects that make up our solar system. A trip to the planetarium can be a lot of fun and books, of course, are great learning tools, but the next best thing is the planetarium on your phone or tablet.

Turn screen time into learning time using these astronomy sites for kids to make star gazing an even more educational experience!

  • Earth and Moon Viewer
    A picture is worth a thousand words! It’s hard to wrap your mind around the scale of Earth, space, and everything else, whether you’re an adult or a kid. This site helps by showing close to real-time satellite images of celestial objects. Don’t be deterred by the plain homepage.
  • NASA
    Where better to go for spacey ideas than NASA? This site contains lots of facts about space, Earth, and technology and offers games, activities, puzzles, images, and videos.
  • National Geographic
    National Geographic has a stellar reputation for a reason, and its space page is no exception. Amazing pictures and articles on current news stories and answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask will keep older kids riveted.
  • Earth From Space
    Photos of, yes, Earth from space! This searchable database offers hundreds of chances to be wowed by what we really look like. Captions explain exactly what you’re looking at.
  • Stardate
    A radio site to visit for up-to-date viewing information and explanations of what you might be seeing when you look up.

Free apps for star gazing made easy:

Planets

Star Chart

GoSkyWatch Planetarium

SkyView Free

How to Use NASA in Your Classroom

Where better to learn astronomy than the premier astronomy institution of the United States—NASA!

NASA Earth
Read articles about the Earth, including real-time information on climate change, wild fires, and the atmosphere.

Astronomy Picture of the Day
We’re lucky to live during a time when the solar system is sending us selfies. Check it out!

Eyes on the Earth
An interactive experience that lets viewers measure global temperatures, precipitation, and other elements, including gravity fluctuations. Requires a one-time download and it’s worth it.

NASA Space Place
A slew of projects and activities wait at this site, including instructions for making a pinhole camera and examining the differences between how humans think and how robots “think.”

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NASA Solar System Exploration

We may not have colonies on Mars yet, but humans have long satisfied their thirst for new land by heading out into the far reaches of the solar system! Tune in to see where we’ve been and where we’re heading next, and find out why space travel is so hard and so rewarding.

Everything You Need To Know About the Perseid Meteor Shower!

Are you ready for the Perseid meteor shower? Many people look forward to this yearly exhibit of meteors, scheduled to peak around August 12 and 13 this year. Unfortunately, there’s going to be a bright moon during that time, which will wash out some of the brilliance of these meteors. But they will still be worth watching!

The Perseids are named for the constellation in which they seem to originate—the Perseus. The meteors accompany a comet called Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862 by two astronomers named Lewis Swift and Horace P. Tuttle. The comet is in the midst of a long 133-year orbit around the sun, and every time it gets near the sun, the comet spews a bunch of dust particles into space. As our planet passes through this dust cloud, this dust falls through Earth’s atmosphere and burns up in little fireworks of light that we can see from our own backyards. A terrific show for Earthlings!

And it’s completely safe. These meteors are burning about 50 miles above the surface of the Earth—there’s no chance you’ll be hit in the head.

Usually, sky watchers can expect to see 60-80 meteors an hour during the Perseids, but this year, that number may be less. Still, head out around 10 p.m. your local time to start scanning the skies.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to watch the meteor shower. The meteors will be appearing all over the sky, so you don’t even need to look in any particular direction. To enjoy the show, try to get away from a light source. If you live in the city, take a trip beyond city limits where there is less light pollution. And don’t forget a blanket!

How To Gain STEM Success with Citizen Science!

One way to get kids interested in science is by letting them do science. Discoveries made are discoveries remembered! This might seem hard—after all, how can fifth graders contribute to actual scientific fields of knowledge? With citizen science!

Citizen science programs are opportunities for kids (and adults) to engage in actual scientific exploration. Scientists spend many hours observing, entering data, and making connections—they could use some help. And anyone can do it. Thanks to the Internet, you don’t need to be in a lab to contribute to scientific study in valuable ways.

Kids are natural citizen scientists. They’re curious about the world around them and they tend to ask “why?” far more than other age groups. They also love when the projects they do are part of something real. There’s far more motivation to strive for STEM success when you know that your observations and recordings are making a difference.

Try these sites for great project ideas for citizen science in the classroom!

  • Are you interested in birds? You can take part in citizen science projects that involve counting, categorizing, and tracking bird nests at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  • For ideas on science projects that involve frogs, insects, and other wildlife, check out the National Wildlife Federation.
  • Zooniverse is a terrific website to explore to find ways to contribute to scientific exploration. For older kids and adults, there are projects in the arts, history, and language. It’s also just a great place to poke around to see the kinds of projects people are interested in!
  • Help scientists track the migration routes and habits of different animal species at Annenberg Learner Journey North. You can also investigate interesting maps that were created from the observations of people just like you.
  • Do you know about light pollution? Yes, in addition to water and air pollution, we’re also concerned about too much light getting into the sky. Why? Because the more light that seeps up from here on Earth, the less clear the stars, planets, and galaxies will appear. Join the team at Globe at Night to help track this problem.
  • NASA has a great opportunity for kids who have their heads in their clouds. Citizen scientists working with S’COOL (Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line) report their observations on the clouds to help NASA gain a better understanding of our atmosphere.