You love them to the moon and back. Why not give them the stars? Kids are completely enraptured by the night sky, and stargazing is the perfect family activity to enjoy together.
They will learn a ton about science — yes, even astrophysics! — while appreciating the wonder and beauty of the universe.
Don’t know anything about astrology? Don’t worry. With these tips, your kids will think you are a regular Carl Sagan.
The first rule of stargazing is location, location, location. Unless you live in a rural area, you’ll need to get out of town and away from city lights to be able to really see the jewels in the night sky.
Climbing to a higher elevation gives you a clearer view, too, because you can rise above the haze and smog. Pick the highest point you can easily get to outside of town.
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You’ll also want to choose an evening with a new moon, because a full moon will reflect too much light — all good tips from AccuWeather.com.
Start with a bang
For your first star adventure, choose a night when there will be lots of action. Can you think of a better way to get your kids excited about this new family hobby than with a meteor shower?
Sea and Sky offers a calendar of celestial events, including meteor showers, to help you plan your adventure.
Get to know the major groupings
If your kids loved the meteor shower, move on to finding constellations. Don’t know Orion from Cepheus? Have no fear; there’s an app for that! A bunch of them, actually. And it’s a good thing since there are 88 constellations!
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With SkyView for iPhone, just point your back camera to the sky and your screen will show you the constellations in sight, paths of any object like planets, meteors or comets, and the names of all the stars. You can even share what you’re seeing on social media.
Turn your touchscreen into a telescope
GoSkyWatch is a similar app, but exclusively for the iPad. It has a 180-degree view of the sky and gives you information on any object up there you can see with your naked eye.
Touch any object on the screen for a pop-up mini window of more information.
Find your favorites
Android users will love Sky Map. Point your phone to the sky and Google Maps technology uses compass data and GPS to identify everything you see up there.
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If you want to see a specific constellation, star or planet, it will direct you to it. You can even jump forward and backward in time to see where an object would have been or will be in the future, even just later that night.
Learn your way around a real telescope
If you have a telescope, SkEye Astronomy will help guide your lens to the right area of the sky. Strap your phone onto your telescope’s OTA and the app will tell you where to point your lens. However, since telescopes have a learning curve — especially for kids — it’s probably best to leave it at home and rely on the naked eye instead.
What are you waiting for (besides for it to get dark)? Grab a cozy blanket, head outside with your kids and give them the stars they deserve.