Astronomy for Families
Astronomy is a wonderful hobby or interest for the entire family and we hope Seeing in the Dark has encouraged you and your family to do some stargazing. This website is designed to help. Its features include:
- Your Sky Tonight includes printable star charts to help orient you in the sky
- How-to Videos on how to get the most out of stargazing
- Observation Guides for some beginner sky activities
- Links to help you find an amateur astronomy club near you; many have public observing nights when you can look through a variety of telescopes
Families can enjoy astronomy at various levels of involvement—starting with getting to know the constellations and going all the way to participating in telescope observing projects with the professionals—as some of the people in the show are doing.
Start where it's convenient—the back yard or someplace else close to home may suffice, if you can find a spot free from the glare of nearby lights—and get the kids involved at every step. Educational research has clearly shown that kids whose families do science activities together do better at science in school.
The National Science Foundation has sponsored a national program called Family ASTRO that offers activities and games to help families do astronomy together. The program is operated by the non-profit Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Here are a few astronomy activities on the Web that families have enjoyed over the years. To get your family in an astronomy mood, you can start by encouraging a dinner-table discussion of how many astronomy names everyone can come up with from popular culture (household products, cars, food, movies, songs, and TV shows). Kids have no trouble coming up with Saturn cars, Comet cleanser, Star Trek, Milky Way candy bars, Eclipse gum, and many others. Then pack a star chart you printed out, a pair of binoculars if you have them, some warm clothing, and go find the Big Dipper or Orion to get started. We wish you clear skies and lots of family fun.
Family Activities From This and Other Web Sites
Constellations and the Night Sky
- Constellation Detective, a simple card activity to help family members identify some of the best-known star patterns.
- Uncle Al's Star Wheel: Make your own planisphere or star finder wheel; comes with PDF files of wheels and a holder that you can assemble.
- Make a Star Wheel is another activity for constructing your own planisphere.
- 111 Deep Sky Wonders for Light Polluted Skies lists objects you can see through a small telescope even if you have city lights in your area.
- How Your Pupil Changes Size lets you observe your eye's reaction to different light levels.
- Birthday Stars helps you find a star whose light left it the year when you were born.
- Family Heroes asks what member of your family you'd put in the sky if we updated the constellations. Also download the Family Heroes Seasonal Star Maps.
The Sun, the Moon, and the Planets
- Observing the Sun Safely explains how to project an image of the Sun for safe viewing.
- Make Your Own Sundial offers instructions and templates for a device to keep time using the Sun and the shadows it casts.
- Seeking Thin Crescent Moons challenges you to match the record for the smallest crescent ever seen.
- Crash Landing is a game to help kids learn about the conditions on the Moon.
- Design a Flag for Your Planet encourages symbolic planetary patriotism:
- Your Weight on Other Planets calculates what you would weigh on different planets and moons in our solar system.
- Your Weight on Other Worlds
- How Old Are You? is a simple activity that calculates your age on other planets.
Special Note: Many of our activities For Teachers can be adapted for family use.