Tag: space

Solar Eclipse 2017 Part 2: See The Eclipse

 

SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017: PART2 - SEE THE SOLAR ECLIPSE

The 2017 Solar Eclipse is fast approaching on August 21st!

In the first post of the series, I covered resources for learning about solar eclipses. There are book and video resources as well.

Today’s post will cover the ins and outs of viewing this eclipse. We’ll also take a small detour through eye anatomy and sunlight experiments along the way.

Next time I’ll share some hands on activities to try.

 

WHERE TO SEE THE ECLIPSE

The 2017 full eclipse will be viewable in the Continental US. As I explained in the last post, a solar eclipse happens when the moon moved between the sun and the Earth. The moon blocks out the light from the sun so it casts a shadow on the Earth. Since the moon is moving, the shadow moves, too.

Map of the solar Eclipse path
Map of the Solar Eclipse Path

That means that people all across the country will have a chance at seeing a full eclipse. 

Being the science geek that I am, my family is making the trek to Carbondale, IL – the official location that NASA is using to study the eclipse.

It’s also only 3 hours from my home in central Illinois. When you live in the cornbelt it’s not often that things are conveniently located to you.

Path of the full eclipse not coming to your town? No problem. Most of the continental US will be able to see a partial eclipse. Check out this interactive map to see what the eclipse will look like in your hometown.

Partial eclipse
Partial Eclipse

If you are traveling to see the Eclipse make sure to check availability of lodgings in advance. Many prime locations are booked up solid. I had to call 5 campgrounds to find a campsite. And I was calling last January. Even I didn’t know people were that passionate about eclipses.

DON’T BE THE TOY SOLDIER!

If you’re going to watch the eclipse, make sure you do it safely. Looking directly at the sun is a bad idea. Here’s why:

Remember that scene in Toy Story where the little boy next door uses a magnifying lens to focus the sun’s light and melt a toy soldier? I’m not sure about the melting point of toy soldiers but you can use a magnifying glass to start a fire:

Starting a fire with a magnifying glass.

It works because the lens changes the path of the sunlight. All the light then comes together at a single point which makes things super bright and super hot. Put something flammable right at that point and it will catch fire. Like this:

Lens bends light

Now let’s take a peek at a normal human eye and see what we find:

Yep. Your eye has a lens in it. Just like the lens in a magnifying glass, it changes the path of light so that it focuses on a single point. If your lens doesn’t focus the light just right, you’ll need even more lenses (glasses or contacts) to help with focus.

But the human eye is not really designed for the super brightness of direct sunlight. So let’s look at what happens when you look directly at the sun:

Eye da

OUCH. No, your eye won’t actually catch fire but you can cause permanent blindness.

Be safe. Do not be the toy soldier.

BE SAFE

So hopefully I have convinced you not to look directly at the solar eclipse. Luckily, there’s a simple solutions.

Regular sunglasses won’t do. You’ll need eclipse glasses like these to protect you. Luckily they’re fairly cheap and easy to get. Get a pair for the whole family!

All the eclipse viewing wonder without the ouch.

 

Next time I’ll post about other fun activities you can do for the eclipse.

 

Solar Eclipse 2017 Part 1: Learn About Solar Eclipses

If you’re not living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the upcoming solar eclipse. Which I like to call eclipsapocalypse. (If you do live under a rock, I don’t judge.)

I’ve gathered together some resources so the children (and inner children) in your life can have enjoy the eclipsapocalyse in style. In this first post, we’ll look at resources for learning about solar eclipses. Scroll down for videos and book recommendations.

Later posts will cover viewing the eclipse and hands-on eclipse activities.

LEARN ABOUT SOLAR ECLIPSES

Solar Eclipse diagram

A solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the Sun and the Earth. The moon blocks the sun’s light and casts a shadow on the Earth. If you’re standing on the part of the Earth where the shadow falls, you’ll see the moon move in front of the Sun and block out the light.

It’s a big deal because full solar eclipses are rare. It’s been nearly a 100 years in In a full eclipse the moon lines up exactly with the sun to completely cover it. Around the area of the full eclipse there’s a much bigger area that will see a partial eclipse. The sun and moon don’t line up exactly, but part of the sun’s light will still be blocked.

Partial eclipse
Partial Eclipse

BOOKS:

You knew there would be books, right?

Eclipses

Eclipses: The Night Sky and other Amazing Sights in Space by Nick Hunter

This book all about eclipses is perfect for younger children.

Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing

Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing by Joe Rao and Mark Borgions

This fun book has a short chapter on eclipses. Perfect for newer readers or as a read aloud to a younger child.

Space Encyclopedia

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond by David A. Aguilar 

My favorite space encyclopedia has sections on eclipses, too.

 

VIDEOS:

This NASA video explains how it works and what it will look like. (Appropriate for young kids to the young at heart.):

If you want to dive deeper into the science of eclipses, this video from Crash Course is great (Appropriate for Adolescents+ (or really nerdy little kids)):

 

Tune in next time to learn how you can see the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

 

 

 

One Year After New Horizons Visited Pluto

Yesterday marked one year since the New Horizons space probe made it’s flyby of Pluto. That also means it’s been over a year that I’ve been working on writing a book about the mission. Uhm, wow.

It’s been quite a year.  The New Horizons mission was historic. It was the first mission to Pluto and the first to visit anything that far away in our solar system.

Pluto Has a Heart

Scientists made many amazing discoveries. First off, Pluto has a heart. And it has a heartbeat! (Ok, not really, but it makes a good headline.) The heart is known as Sputnik Planum and it’s made of nitrogen ice. On Earth nitrogen exists as a gas in our atmosphere, but Pluto is cold enough for it to freeze into ice. Nitrogen periodically bubbles up out of the planets crust and spreads out over the heart. The rest of the planet may be roughed up with craters and mountains, but the heart is nice and smooth. These “heartbeats” are like spreading a layer of frosting over a cake – it gives it a nice smooth finish.  A frigid, icy heart would be a bad thing for a person, but for a planet it’s just plain cool.

 

We also found out that Pluto is bigger than we thought. That’s a big deal. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union ruled that Pluto wasn’t a real planet – it is part of a new class called dwarf planets. The decision was spurred when a researcher discovered something out past Neptune that was bigger than Pluto. Many such things had been found but this was the first that was bigger than Pluto. If Pluto was a planet, so was this new thing. And it might not end there; one estimate is that there are hundreds of these things. Rather than let new members to the planet club, Pluto got demoted. Not all scientists agree with the decision. The head of the New Horizons mission has been particularly vocal in his disagreement with the decision. So you can imagine how he felt when it turned out Pluto was the biggest dwarf planet after all.

Dwarf Planets
Named dwarf planets. Pluto narrowly beat out Eris as the biggest

 

It’s not over, though. A year out from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto and we’re still getting data back from the probe. It’s so far away and uses so little power that sending information back to Earth is slower than a turtle in molasses. We’ll still be getting new data until October. It also takes scientists awhile to make sense of all that information. We’ve learned a lot, but we will still be making new discoveries for years to come. 

New Horizons path. Next stop Kuiper Belt Object MU69
New Horizons path. Next stop Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69

In 2019, New Horizons will make another historic first. It will be the first to flyby a Kuiper Belt Object. The Kuiper belt is a band of icy, rocky objects far out past Neptune in our solar system. Some dwarf planets orbit out in the Kuiper belt but mostly Kuiper belt objects are just lumpy rocks covered in ice. That might not sounds that interesting, but scientists would disagree. Those lumpy rocks haven’t changed since our solar system formed. Studying one of these Kuiper belt objects up close will tell us a lot about the early solar system. New Horizons could unlock secrets of our early solar system.

As exciting as this year has been for science, its not over yet.

Happy Flyby-versary, New Horizons! Here’s to many more.

Happy 1 year Flyby-iversary Pluto

5 Spectacular Space Books for 4th – 8th Graders

5 Spectacular Space Books for 4th - 8th Grade

It’s no secret I’m a space lover. If you follow we on Facebook and Twitter you know that half my posts are about space. Lots of kids love space, too. There are oodles of lists of space picture books. There are even whole lists of Pluto picture books. While picture books aren’t just for little kids, older kids crave more. More information, more depth, more excitement. There are lots of great books for the 4th-8th graders but there aren’t many lists to help you find them. This post goes out to my fellow space-lovers just looking for a good book to read.

These books are my top picks for 4th-8th graders.  I love a true story told well. All of these books are nonfiction but most are written as engaging stories, rather than textbooks. They’ll let you experience what it’s like to roam the red planet, Mars, or sit on Earth sweating bullets when things go wrong far out in space.

 

The Might Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch 

The tale of the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, two rovers that were only supposed to work for a couple of months but kept going for years. (Mighty, indeed.) Along the way they taught us a lot about Mars and about problem solving.

 

Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet by Buzz Aldrin and Marianne Dyson

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t just the second man on the moon, he’s also a space researcher who is helping to plan the first mission to put people on Mars. This book will tell you all about what it will be like to be one of those first few Martian pioneers.

 

A Black Hole is Not A Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano and Michael Carroll

This book is a fascinating read about black holes, quite possibly some of the coolest (and scariest) things in our universe. Black holes hold our galaxy together and have such strong gravity that they can even bend light.

 

Team Moon: How 400,000 people landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

Lots of books will tell you about the astronauts that went to the moon. This is the only book that tells you about the seamstresses that sewed their suits or the photographer than taught them to take those amazing photos. This book is all about the people who made it possible for the astronauts to go to the moon.

 

Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon by Andrew Chaikin and astronaut Alan Bean

This beautifully illustrated books tells the story of every mission that took men to the moon. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to go to the moon, this is the book for you.

 

There you have it. Five of my favorite space books written just for middle grade students.Do you have a favorite one to add?

5 Out of this World Space Picture Books

5

I hope my list of Pluto books whet your appetite.

Or maybe you need something a bit closer to home.

Here are a few of our favorite storybooks for little space cadets.

 

There's No Place Like Space

There’s No Place Like Space

Put on your space suit and jump in the Cat in the Hat’s rocket for a tour of the solar system.  This one is a great introduction for younger space cadets.

 

 

If You Decide To Go To The Moon

If you Decide to Go To The Moon

Planning your next trip to the moon? This book will tell you everything you need to know.

 

The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System

The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System

Blast off into space in the Magic School Rocket. Everything’s going fine until Mrs. Frizzle gets left behind. How will the kid’s get back?

This one is a classic. It is a bit dated (it still lists Pluto as a planet) but it’s a great story.

 

Astronaut Handbook

Astronaut Handbook

Another how-to manual for aspiring astronauts. This one will show you how to become an astronaut.

 

How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers

How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers

If you don’t have a space ship handy, grab your bike instead! Less scientifically accurate than the other books but so much fun!

 

What’s your favorite space book?

4 Pluto Picture books

4 Pluto Picture books (1)

Do you have a little space cadet at home?

Has the new exciting Pluto research inspired you?

Not sure why Pluto got booted from the planet pantheon?

These 4 picture books are for you!

 

Pluto's Secret

Pluto’s secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery

This book gets top marks from my little space cadet. It tells the complete story of Pluto – predictions, discovery, naming, and it’s ultimate demotion. The story is engaging and covers a lot of science.

 

Pluto Visits Earth

Pluto Visits Earth

This book is a nice introduction to the planet and why it was demoted down to dwarf planet. Great for the youngest space cadets and those just getting their feet wet.

 

The Planet Hunter

The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto

Another Isaacs’ household favorite. This is the story of astronomer Mike Brown. He discovered many dwarf planets, including Eris whose size rivaled Pluto’s and set off the planet debate. This is a great story and also a good peek into how scientists work.

 

When is a Planet Not a Planet

When is a Planet not a Planet

Ready for more? This nonfiction book will give you all the information you need about everyone’s favorite former planet.