Saturday, September 18, 2010

What I've Seen in the Skies

One of the challenges of science this year will be finding experiments, demonstrations or projects that can be considered "labs." And because it's been a while since we covered earth and space science, that is one area I'd like to include. As I write this, we're in the Adirondack Mountains, and the sky watching is amazing. From our not-particularly-dark hotel parking lot at sometime after 4 in the morning, I can see stars blanketing the heavens. Orion, the Big Dipper, and the Plaides stand out like beacons, and one of the planets, perhaps Jupiter, hangs halfway across.

It made me think that having the kids make up a sky survey, much like the nature survey we did when we were starting biology, would be fun to do. In their lifetimes we've seen many interesting phenomena (whether they still remember them, is a question though). But just a sampling includes solar and lunar eclipses, a meteor storm (many times heavier than a meteor shower), a spectacular double-tailed comet, and the aurora borealis.

I'll have to do some research to find out what worthwhile things will be happening in the skies in our region this year that we might be able to spot with our bare eyes or our Galelioscope. I'll also check out local observatories to see if there are any public programs the kids would be willing to attend. It might be nice to take another trip to the mountains -- perhaps somewhere more remote -- to do some more productive skywatching.

As I'm standing in the parking lot formulating this plan, I swear a meteor flashed a small arc across the sky.

I'm taking it as a sign.