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!

There’s A Podcast For That

There’s no doubt about it: podcasts have taken the listening world by storm. From true crime to politics to self-help, you can find a podcast for every interest and topic. Even some of our favorite museums are getting in on the action and producing their own podcasts in-house! While we can’t enjoy these institutions in person, listening to their podcasts is a unique way to connect with museum collections, stories, and staff.

PEMcast from the Peabody Essex Museum launched in 2014 and is hosted by Chip Van Dyke and Dinah Cardin. They aim to connect the museum and its collections to broader cultural issues through conversations and storytelling. Their dedication to high-quality and engaging content has even earned a Silver Muse Award from the American Alliance of Museums. Episodes cover everything from music to historic homes to the maker movement and public art. 

The Museum of Science’s Pulsar: A Podcast, described as a “playground for the mind” is another great museum-created podcast. Produced by the Gordon Current Science and Technology Center of the Museum of Science, Pulsar tackles your biggest science questions, including what it’s like to live in space, how to use technology to preserve our cultural heritage sites, and how Cliff, a 65 million-year-old Triceratops fossil, arrived at the Museum.

All caught up on the latest episodes of your favorite podcast? Maybe looking for a new one to dive into? Check out these awesome, popular titles inspired by your favorite pods and podcasters:

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark 

From Overdrive/Libby: “The instant #1 New York Times and USA Today best seller by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the hit podcast My Favorite Murder! Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation. In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.”

Unqualified by Anna Faris 

From Overdrive/Libby: “A hilarious, honest memoir—combined with just the right amount of relationship advice—from the popular actress and host of the hit podcast Anna Faris is Unqualified. Anna Faris has advice for you. And it’s great advice, because she’s been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she’s learned. After surviving an awkward childhood (when she bribed the fastest boy in the third grade with ice cream), navigating dating and marriage in Hollywood, and building a podcast around romantic advice, Anna has plenty of lessons to share: Advocate for yourself. Know that there are wonderful people out there and that a great relationship is possible. And, finally, don’t date magicians. Her comic memoir, Unqualified, shares Anna’s candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir—including stories about being “the short girl” in elementary school, finding and keeping female friends, and dealing with the pressures of the entertainment industry and parenthood—part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast, Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna’s unique take on how to master the bizarre, chaotic, and ultimately rewarding world of love. Hilarious, honest, and useful, Unqualified is the book Anna’s fans have been waiting for.”

Alice Isn’t Dead: A Novel by Joseph Fink

From Overdrive/Libby & hoopla: “From the New York Times best selling coauthor of It Devours! and Welcome to Night Vale comes a fast-paced thriller about a truck driver searching across America for the wife she had long assumed to be dead, performed by the voice of the Alice Isn’t Dead podcast, Jasika Nicole, with an exclusive essay written and read by Joseph Fink. “This isn’t a story. It’s a road trip.” Keisha Taylor lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country. Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job as a long-haul truck driver and begins searching for Alice. In pursuit of her missing wife, she will stumble on a forgotten American history of secret deals and buried crimes, an inhuman serial killer who has picked her as his next target, and an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system—uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.”

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

From Overdrive/Libby & hoopla: “From the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live. Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge. Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “KING CITY” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels. Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it. Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “KING CITY”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.”

Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry 

From Overdrive/Libby: “Serial only told part of the story… In early 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland. Syed has maintained his innocence, and Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, has always believed him. By 2013, after almost all appeals had been exhausted, Rabia contacted Sarah Koenig, a producer at This American Life, in hopes of finding a journalist who could shed light on Adnan’s story. In 2014, Koenig’s investigation turned into Serial, a Peabody Award-winning podcast with more than 500 million international listeners. But Serial did not tell the whole story. In this compelling narrative, Rabia Chaudry presents new key evidence that she maintains dismantles the State’s case: a potential new suspect, forensics indicating Hae was killed and kept somewhere for almost half a day, and documentation withheld by the State that destroys the cell phone evidence — among many other points — and she shows how fans of Serial joined a crowd-sourced investigation into a case riddled with errors and strange twists. Adnan’s Story also shares Adnan’s life in prison, and weaves in his personal reflections, including never-before-seen letters. Chaudry, who is committed to exonerating Adnan, makes it clear that justice is yet to be achieved in this much examined case.”

Sadie by Courtney Summers

From Overdrive/Libby & hoopla: “An innovative audiobook production featuring more than thirty voices, Sadie explores the depth of a sister’s love — poised to be the next story listeners won’t be able to pause. A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial—like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister, Mattie, in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him. When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late. Courtney Summers’ Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep listeners riveted until the last chapter.”