Sky science

Sky science

Introducing children to astronomy

Summer days mean clearer skies, the perfect recipe for some sky science with your children or class. You don't have to wait for the sun to set to start exploring. Most children are mesmerized by space, and the closest star to us is available for study all day long. Introducing a child to the amazing power of our sun safely can engage them in a lifelong passion for the skies.

First and foremost, you should never look directly at the sun, either with your naked eye or through a telescope if it doesn't have a special solar filter. The damage to your eyes is painless, but irreversible. Special solar glasses allow safe study of the sun, or you can fashion your own glasses from number 14 welder's glass. Solar filters are also available for both telescopes and binoculars.

With proper eye protection children can view sunspots as they travel around the star. These appear as darker regions and are visible sometimes even without magnification. With a properly equipped telescope or binoculars, the corona and solar flares are sometimes visible.

If you are able to view at night, Saturn is easily visible during the summer in the southern skies. It only appears as a bright star without aid, but even a weak pair of binoculars can reveal ears on the planet, which are the rings. A telescope fully reveals the rings. Mars is also visible in the southwest, sitting between the legs of the constellation Leo. It appears as a bright orangish-red star.