Astronomy Is Looking Up!

By | May 6, 2011

Earlier this year, I made an executive decision. The kids would not go to bed at their appointed bedtimes. Rather, we would pile everyone in the car in their pajamas and drive two miles west, away from the city lights toward the receding edge of Colorado’s prairie. We would park the car, douse the lights, and give our kids the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to see one honking-big moon.

What a dud. Clouds to the west blocked most of our view. Not enough to make us head for home, but just enough to hint at what that glowing blur might look like if the sky were clear. We waited an hour, then the clouds parted and an ordinary, sort-of-yellowish moon gave us a peek.

Disappointing, for sure. But the experience got me thinking even more about introducing these kids to nature at night. A lot of that thinking orbits around spending the night outside in a tent, or building a shelter and sleeping in it, or just taking a late night walk. Never far from my mental meanderings, however, is the night sky. Astronomy tells us so much about the world we live in. In fact, contemplation of the heavens has led scientists tantalizingly close to answering some of humanity’s deepest questions. (Admittedly, the answers often just bring up better questions, but that too shines a light on the human predicament.)

This Saturday, May 7, is Astronomy Day.  The event comes around twice a year—this year on May 7 and October 1. In celebration, local planetariums and universities offer events to introduce the public, kids especially, to astronomy. I think this is a great way to kick off a summer of “looking up” with your kids.

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