We are so blessed to live in a community that offers so many summertime activities: Zoos, hiking trails, beaches, picnic areas, museums, parades, farmers markets, art galleries. Don’t forget to look upward, because some of our finest summer attractions take place in the sky.
Look to the west in the nighttime sky, and you’ll see Venus shining back at you. Watch her through a telescope, and Venus might just cast a pink hue. In the eastern sky, near the rising moon, look at Jupiter showing off. Check out this website for more planet sightings this summer: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/.
In the northern sky on a clear, dark night, the Big Dipper will be high above you in the northern sky. If you can point out the Big Dipper to your children or grandchildren, you might be able to guide them to the North Star, Polaris. The bowl of the Big Dipper points to Polaris, which is the handle of the Little Dipper. Earthsky.org has a helpful diagram.
It won’t be long before the Perseids showers return to give you many chances to make wishes on a shooting star. More details are available at: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/perseid.html.
Even the manmade attractions are a sight to behold on a warm summer evening. Lie on a blanket or recline in a lawn chair in your back yard, and watch for satellites. Space.com tells us that 35,000 satellites are circling the earth, so you won’t have to wait long to see one. The satellite won’t be fiery-looking like a star, but rather will appear as a speck of light which is actually the sun illuminating the satellite’s metal exterior. You can see satellites moving from the north, south or west, but they never move from the east.
If you’re able to let your children stay up a little later, they might catch a glimpse of the International Space Station. Check out this chart from NASA which pinpoints when it will be visible from La Porte: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/view.cfm country=United_States®ion=Indiana&city=La_Porte#.Wxh81Ugvwgw.
The chart looks a little daunting, but it gives you the general idea of where to look in the nighttime sky.
I’m not typically one to advocate for mingling family time with electronics time, except when it comes to the sky. My husband and I were bombarded with questions when our daughters were young, asking without taking a breath, “Where is that plane from? Where is going? When will it get there?” Now with the free app, Flightradar, we can answer – and with truth – the barrage of questions that still come.
I also like another free app, SkyView. It shows the planets, constellations and stars. What I think is so cool about this app is that when you point the phone upward you see the space above you – and, when you point the phone downward, you see what is on the other side of the world.
Summer often has us hustling around, and it can be refreshing on a summer evening to just sit and watch. The sky show is completely free – and it might just kickstart a lifelong love of space and flight.
Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call 800-897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.