Stargazing

Filed under: Big Kids, Activities: Babies, Places To Go

The sky at dusk above the hillsLabor day weekend, along with the usual suspects (a bunch of families from my son's preschool, plus a few additions from kindergarten and first grade), I took my older two kids camping at Mount Hamilton, the tallest mountain in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and home to the Lick Observatory. The location was selected because of a star party taking place Saturday night hosted by the Halls Valley Astronomical Group.

The long weekend coincided with a new moon, so the night sky was nice and dark. After dinner, we wrapped our flashlights in red cellophane and headed up the hill to where local astronomy enthusiasts had set up their telescopes. These might have been amateurs, but their telescopes were anything but. Motorized and computerized, they were big devices that brought the heavens right down into the campground. The highlight of the night was being able to see Jupiter along with four of its moons, all in a row. Club members were more than happy to explain what the kids were seeing and answer any questions they had.

You may not be close enough to attend one of the Halls Valley club's star parties, but they're not the only group that invites the public to see the stars through their telescopes on a regular basis. Sky and Telescope magazine has a searchable directory of clubs and organizations around the country, along with some tips and advice on getting started on your own. Even without a high-powered telescope, there's a lot to see in the night sky, so get outside and look up!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.