Families are spending lots of time together during the COVID-19 shutdown. Why not take your kids outside for a fun and educational look at the stars? Here are a few tips if you are new to stargazing.
Dark skies are best for viewing the night sky, so turn out the lights or go to a park away from city lights and people (remember to keep safe distances). It takes about 10 minutes for your eyes to reach the first stage of dark adjustment and a couple of hours to reach optimal performance, so be patient as more stars become visible. Use a flashlight or headlamp with a red beam, if you need to see to find your way. Take snacks and warm drinks to keep the kids entertained.
To prepare for your outing to the back yard pull out your Name a Star star chart or print out a star chart from one of these websites.
For a fun indoor project make a star wheel following these directions.
You can also use a smartphone app for help identifying stars, planets, and even satellites in the night sky. They can be easy to use and a little addictive, so make sure to set them down and actually look at the sky. Many of the apps below come in a free version and a paid version with more features and no ads.
Star Gazing Apps for iPhone and Android:
Night Sky (iPhone only)
Easy to use app with colorful displays and lots of information about the stars, sun, and moon.
Find Starlink Satellites
In addition to natural sky objects there are also satellites and the space station. This app helps you find them, especially the Starlink satellites. Some nights you can see a whole train of them.
Another good app for finding satellites. This one has some great graphics.
Star Walk 2
See the stars and the satellites, plus and overlay of the constellations.