Day trip: A visit to the planetarium
Many communities offer a special spot where we can teach our children more about science and astronomy: planetariums. Find out some ways to help make the most of your trip here, along with links to continue space exploration from your desktop!
Fun for all ages
Planetariums have wonderful exhibits and activities for youngsters. There are about one thousand planetariums in the United States, ranging from small ones that hold about 20 people to giant facilities with 300 or more seats. These facilities are particularly useful for children in urban areas, where metropolitan lights and pollution obstruct one's view of the solar system.
Inside planetariums, children often can:
- Use telescopes to view the rings of Saturn;
- See the "sky" with vivid clarity from inside the planetarium's dome; and
- Step on scales to learn what they would weigh on the moon or on Mars.
To find the nearest planetarium, search for "planetarium" on sites like Yelp or Google Maps (just add your zip code to the search box) or try GoAstronomy.com or the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Does your child want to get involved in space science? There are many people who enjoy astronomy as a hobby; whether you use a telescope, binoculars, or just your eyes, it can be very rewarding and educational. Many people are also surprised to learn that astronomy is one of the few remaining sciences where a dedicated amateur can still make a significant contribution to the growing body of knowledge.
Below are some of the NASA webmaster's favorite links to amateur sites, along with some SheKnows suggestions. As you may discover, there are thousands of related websites out there! (Note: This list does not represent any kind of endorsement by NASA or SheKnows -- it is offered only as a resource for getting started.)
For the beginning or general observer:
- Kennedy Space Center
- Sky & Telescope
- Challenger Center for Space Science Education
- National Geographic's Virtual Solar System
- The Astronomical Society of the Pacific
- The Astronomical League
- Constellations: Stories and a Deepsky Atlas
- NASA's Observatorium
- GSOC satellite observation page
For the advanced amateur:
- The American Association of Variable Star Observers
- The Center for Backyard Astrophysics
- National Space Society (NSS)
- International Association for Astronomical Studies (IAAS)
More space facts & fun
About this article: Much of this information was provided by the US Department of Education and NASA Curator Craig Tupper.
Photo at top of page: Dorrance Planetarium in Phoenix, Arizona