Warm summer nights are perfect for stargazing and this month’s activities will focus on upcoming meteor showers. In late July and early August we may see the Delta Aquarids
though they are most prominent in the Southern Hemisphere and southernmost latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. They’re expected to peak around July 29-30, with the most favorable sightings between midnight and dawn.
In mid August, from approximately the 10th-13th, the Perseid meteor shower will make its annual trek through the northern hemisphere. The shower builds gradually to a peak, often producing 50 to 100 meteors per hour in a dark sky. They are typically fast and bright meteors with persistent trains. Combined with the Delta Aquarid shower, it’s the year’s most dazzling display of shooting stars. For further information on these and other meteor showers throughout the year visit http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide.
A great resource for additional stargazing activities and free printables, including constellations guides, is NASA's website at www.spaceplace.nasa.gov.
Perhaps staying up late might be an opportunity for a party, or some celebratory snacks at least. From the Big Book of Things to Make, edited by James Mitchem, you may want to try the Glow-in-the-dark-jello.
You will need:
1 package jello
Tonic water (name brand for best results)
1 Tbsp sugar
Jello mold or plastic bowl
UV light (inexpensive and available at most hardware stores)
Prepare the jello as directed on the package using the tonic water as a replacement for the plain water. Add the sugar to sweeten – tonic water has a bitter aftertaste. Quinine, a substance found in tonic water, is what makes the jello glow. Let your jello set in a mold or bowl or individual cups. When it’s set, turn out of the bowls and shine the UV light on it to see it glow!
For a daytime star activity, head to the beach to collect some Falling Star Dust (from Go Outside: Over 130 activities for outdoor adventures by Nancy Blakey. You’ll need a heavy duty magnet (available at hardware stores) tied to a length of string approximately 5 feet. This works best on a beach or you can also try a large open grassy area. Drag the magnet through the sand or across the field. Use a magnifying glass to observe your collected particles. Meteors are partly composed of iron and nickel causing the star dust to stick to your magnet.
Have fun and don't forget to make a wish!
Some cosmic themed titles for additional reading...
Owly & Wormy, bright lights and starry nights - JP Runton, Andy
Stars! Stars! Stars! - JP Wallace, Nancy
Starry Sky - J523.8 H414S
Constellations - J523.8 K49C
Fiction for older children and teens…
172 Hours on the Moon - YA Harstad, Johan
Losers in Space - YA Barnes, John