Expand Your Horizons With a Summer Stargaze
The night sky will captivate your family.
There's just something about cuddling up under a blanket with the kids to get a good look at the stars. Whether in your backyard, at a local observatory, or at a star-viewing party, warm summer nights are the perfect time to stargaze.
Knowing what celestial events are passing your way can make for even more fun. EarthSky provides a calendar packed with information about what you can expect from the night sky. Before you gaze you can find out which stars will be putting on the best show.
Telescopes work wonders for stargazers but a pair of binoculars can be almost as good. Not only are they convenient and portable, but they also offer a wider-field view of the moon and other large sky objects, which is good for children and beginners. Astronomers recommend buying binoculars with a diameter of at least 40 millimeters—the wider the field of view, the more light is gathered and the better picture you get. Be sure to give your eyes occasional breaks if you are using magnification.
The best places for celestial viewing are away from the lights of the city. Your kids will be astonished by the magnitude of stars above the treetops on family camping trips. If you are gazing without the help of an expert, consulting an online star chart ahead of time will help. These atlases of the sky help parents figure out what they are looking at, and what to point out to their children.
If you and your kids are ready to learn more about astronomy, and use heavier-duty equipment, pay a visit to the University of Washington's Theodor Jacobsen Observatory for a public viewing. After dark on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, there are exhibits and activities that will interest children and adults, including an ancient, 110-year-old telescope, various smaller telescopes, and a scale model of the solar system. Seattle Astronomical Society members operate the big telescope, and can find fascinating treasures above. You should also check out the talk-of-the-night topics, which are often kid-friendly.
The Seattle Astronomical Society also offers "star parties" at local parks to help people understand what is in the night sky.
Taryn Zier is a freelance writer based in Lake Forest Park and mother of two children who love to wish on shooting stars. NOTE: This article was updated and is accurate as of June 2018.