Raising boys is a daily adventure, and their curiosity and excitement is contagious. They show interest in amazing things I always wanted to learn about and experience as a child, and this time, I can, because I’m doing with with my own children. We are exploring, learning, and having fun together.
My husband and I are Trekkies (he converted me), and we’ve always been fascinated by what is Out There. I’m hoping before I leave this world to see humans tranported from one place to another on the planet instantaneously. Sounds farfetched? Don’t forget that 20 years ago the idea of tablets, smart phones, and devices that put the knowledge of the entire world in your pocket and let you see, capture, or communicate with anyone anywhere seemed utterly futuristic and impossible, like something you’d see on a SciFi show…and today, even 5 year olds have them.
It could happen, and since I love the idea I could be raising future astronauts or the first Captain of the Starship Enterprise, I was happy to begin on an adventure with my sons stargazing together.
My older son learned about our solar system in school and created a beautiful poster of the planets, sun and moons. Since then his interest has expanded, so I commissioned a star for each of my sons through Name A Star Live, one in the Andromeda constellation and the other in Sagittarius. They now each have a permanent star named after them, and one day when they are astronauts they can each travel to the celestial body that is their namesake for a little visit.
As we saw the excitement and interest were there, the journey began…
Step 1 – The right equipment
We decided to look for the right instrument to start gazing at the stars together and searched for a quality, easy to use telescope that would show us great celestial bodies despite the pollution typical in the NY sky. We found great information to help you find the right telescope for you, but also learned that you don’t need an expensive telescope to view most of our galaxy, so if a telescope is currently out of your budget, don’t let that stop you! You can view craters on the moon with a good pair of binoculars, and see many of the planets in our galaxy and dozens of constellations with your own unaided eyes. There is so much you can explore starting now, so you can find advice on choosing a good telescope here, or just sit outside and look up, and start enjoying. There is great information for observing the stars with the unaided eye, such as objects to look for with a 12 month chart, for beginner to advanced stargazers, and binocular stargazing information here.
Step 2 – Charting the night sky
The night sky is beautiful and fun to gaze at, but of course we wanted to know what celestial bodies we were admiring. We found a great book for beginner stargazers called The Backyard Stargazer: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Skywatching With and Without a Telescope, and for those of you who prefer to find great information online, there are so many sites brimming with information. Sky and Telescope offer a Northern hemisphere star chart and moon map here, as well as interactive tools and charts on their site that you can explore endlessly on their site SkyandTelescope.com.
Telescope.com offers monthly star charts that are printable so you can track what you see based on the time of year, and find guidance as you search. It’s perfect for amateur astronomers, and many of the charts are broken down by your location, time of year, etc (check the left sidebar for more options), and can continually inspire your child as their interest develops and they become more adept star seekers.
Step 3 – Explore beyond your backyard
Consider joining an astronomy club, which are usually regional, like Amateur Astronomers Association, if they continue to appreciate this wonderful hobby. Your children can discover like-minded friends to observe together or chat online, more resources to learn, and find out about upcoming astronomical events to look out for in the sky, as well as the best places to observe from in your area.
Learning about our wonderful universe needn’t be confined to standing behind a telescope in our bedroom windows (wonderful though that may be) or our own neighborhoods, so whenever you head out and have the opportunity to visit planetariums or observatories, you should! Across the country, there are star parties where stargazers commune to watch and celebrate phenomenal astronomical events together, or simply appreciate the night sky in a group setting, and you can even find upcoming star parties at StarDate.org (continually updated).
We visited the Intrepid over the summer, and learned about some of the incredible exploratory missions we are currently engaged in, as well as advancements and new discoveries and more that NASA is up to, and friends, I’m telling you, it’s going to happen. Instant Teleportation…it’s going to happen soon.