Shoot for the Stars: Resources for Stargazing and Learning About Outer Space

A Boston Globe article from May 6 highlighted a family-friendly quarantine activity that is out of this world: stargazing! The current lockdown has led to a reduction in light and air pollution, resulting in better conditions for observing the night sky. Caity Sullivan, education associate at the Charles Hayden Planetarium of the Museum of Science, outlines some tips and tricks in the article for at-home stargazing with your family, including free star-viewing apps and what to look for in the night sky.

Though you can’t visit the Hayden Planetarium in person, Sullivan and the folks at the Museum of Science have made it possible for the Planetarium to come to you! Check out their Facebook page for Virtual Planetarium events — you can view past presentations and stay informed about upcoming events, including livestreams of what to view in the night sky. If you miss the presentations, take a look at the Museum’s handy May Sky Chart & Viewing Guide — May is a great month to start backyard stargazing as there will be a rare Mercury sighting the week of May 19th!

For even more space-related fun, listen to Pulsar: A Podcast from the Museum of Science. Their episode on Living in Space, featuring Sullivan, is a must listen, as well as their namesake inaugural episode, All About Pulsars. And for young astronomers, learn about our universe through hands-on activities, such as the Museum’s Our Place in Space family STEM activity and Boston Children’s Museum’s treasure trove of Beyond the Chalkboard NASA-inspired activities, including inventing your own constellations, building paper rockets, and keeping a sky observation journal.

Want more galactic goodness? Check out these fiction and nonfiction titles for all ages — some of many available on Overdrive/Libby with your library card number — to keep your whole family shooting for the stars:

8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie
Moon! Earth’s Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty (audio) 
Stars! Stars! Stars! by Bob Barner
Fly Guy Presents: Space by Tedd Arnold
Ada Twist’s Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists by Andrea Beaty
Midnight on the Moon (Magic Tree House #8) and its companion Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: Space by Mary Pope Osborne

Junior Genius Guides: Outer Space by Ken Jennings
How to Be A Space Explorer by Lonely Planet Kids
Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly (audio)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

And for some further space exploration, check out encyclopedic text about the solar system in Salem Press, or take a peek at our selection of Great Courses videos about astronomy and the mysteries of the universe:

Our Night Sky
Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe
The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know
The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries
The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy

Happy stargazing!

Virtual Read Aloud With Author Kate Messner

Children’s author Kate Messner has written over 35 books on many science and nature topics, easy readers, picture books, and mysteries. On her website, the former classroom teacher and well-known author includes:

  • Video clips of her reading aloud from many of her books. Videos include her reading from Over and Under the Snow, The Next President, and a chance to hear her latest, which will come out in August; Over and Under the Rainforest.
  • Activity tips for kids following the readings, which mainly involve a single question from the book.
  • Video clips of other well-known authors reading from their books aloud, including Grace Lin and Nikki Grimes.
  • Resources with mini lessons for different grade levels.

You can listen to Messner reading her picture book, The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. It’s also available on hoopla to borrow as an ebook. She tells the true story of how a young boy who loved coral reefs became an adult who devised a method to transplant coral to create new colonies on devastated sites where corals have died. Ken Nedimeyer grew up near Florida’s coral reefs and became a pioneer in the techniques of grafting stag coral to create new coral colonies. The illustrations are as intense in coloring as the corals. The story is geared to ages 4-7, and adds simple descriptions for young readers of how corals grow.

Messner includes a link to the Coral Restoration website, which details the threats facing coral reefs worldwide. There is also a link to the NASA Climate Kids site, which helps kids learn what they can do to help the oceans.