Astronomy And Your Children
Giving your children an interest in astronomy will provide a lifetime of
pleasure and satisfaction, a sense of wonder at the universe, a
potentially lifelong hobby, as well as a possible professional career for
them in later years!
Before you give them binoculars or buy them a telescope or a hand held
planetarium, get your kids outside on a clear night to look at the stars
in the way humans have always done - with their eyes. Naked eye
astronomy is the way to begin learning about the heavens. That's
because, apart from the moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and a few other
night sky objects like the Pleiades, looking at something through
binoculars or a telescope can be difficult and disappointing. The star
which is a tiny point of light in the sky will remain a tiny point of light
when magnified. Even holding binoculars steady enough for viewing is
likely to be challenging for smaller children anyway.
It's much better to get children inspired about the night sky by having
them learning about and watching the phases of the moon, or the
shapes of the brighter constellations, without using instruments.
Of course, if you are hazy about things like the names of the
constellations yourself you will be setting out on a voyage of discovery
with your kids as well! There are many great software programs
available which will display the currently visible night sky on your
computer, or you can check the constellations in the charts in any good
astronomy guidebook. Then you can pass on your knowledge when
Another recommendation before venturing out in the dark - dress your
kids warmly, make them wear hats, and don't try to do too much on the
first night. Whether you stargaze in your yard, in the local park, or
have to drive outside the city to get away from the artificial light and
streetlights and get a clear view of the stars, don't let your kids get
too cold. I know from bitter experience that this will make it harder to
get them out the next time.