Take advantage of warm summer nights by getting outside and uncovering astronomy – the study of what lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Keep reading for tips and tricks for the best stargazing experience, an introduction to some amazing meteor showers you can view from home and ideas for other night sky observations!
Preparing to Stargaze
Whether you’re familiarizing yourself with the sky or camping out to see an impressive meteor shower, we encourage you to keep these tips in mind to give your family the best possible viewing experience!
- Avoid Light: Try to go where there is as little light pollution if possible. Avoiding areas with many streetlights will give a clearer view of objects in the sky.
- Give Your Eyes Time to Adjust: Build time into your plans for your eyes to get used to the darkness – it likely will take around 30 minutes to adapt to the low-light conditions.
- Use Red Light: Pack a red-light flashlight. Unlike blue light, this will allow you to still see and read with less of an impact on the night vision that you just built up.
- Stay Warm: Dress in layers and bring a warm drink – it can get chilly at night!
- Get Comfortable: Consider a blanket or low chair to lean back on as you look to the sky.
Remember, you can get started with your evening observations without any equipment or experience – just get outside and look up to discover out-of-this-world sights!
Why Meteor Showers Rock
Meteors are often mistaken for shooting stars, but they are really chunks of space dust and rock that leave a trail of glowing hot air as they enter Earth’s atmosphere and fall toward Earth – but don’t worry, due to their small size, most burn up before ever reaching the ground. This space debris often comes from comets and becomes a meteor when Earth passes through the debris tailing a comet, bringing the space rock and dust into our atmosphere. When we can see many meteors at once, it is called a meteor shower!
There are many incredible meteor showers that you can check out each year that are named for the constellation they appear closest to in the sky. The peak viewing times, evenings when you are most likely to catch the best glimpse of meteors, occur around the same time each year for these major meteor showers. However, factors such as the weather and phases of the moon will impact visibility.
If you’re ready to grab a blanket and get outside to witness meteor showers with your family, summer is the perfect opportunity! This year, the Perseids meteor shower is expected to peak between Aug. 12 and 13 and can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere without need of a telescope. Between the warm August weather and limited moonlight, viewing conditions are expected to be great this year – it’s no surprise that this will be one of the most popular meteor showers to view!
Can’t get out in August to view the Perseids meteor shower? Don’t worry – check out the American Meteor Society’s calendar of major meteor showers, like Orionids and Geminids, complete with peak times and viewing conditions, so your child can practice their awesome observation skills all year round.
Other Sky Sights
Meteor showers aren’t the only amazing sights you’ll discover when studying the night sky. By checking out the sky before bed each night, you’ll notice that what you see moves and changes throughout the year. Encourage your child to keep an eye out for bright stars, constellations, visible planets and even the changing phases of the moon to expand their understanding of the world around us!
For new and exciting ways to continue bringing STEM learning to life for your child, we invite you to keep an eye on our blog!