The stunning Supermoon lunar eclipse seen this week was a reminder of how magical it is to observe the stars and the moon, and learn about space.
There are some great places in the UK where children (and adults) can learn about astronomy and the night sky.
Why not check some of them out this Autumn?
The Science Museum in London has a gallery dedicated to astronomy called Cosmos and Culture. Interactive exhibits take older kids through complex ideas such as how telescopes work, the physics of gravity and dark matter, constellations and amateur astronomy. The gallery is ideal for children aged 11 + and parents can download resources beforehand.
Exploring Space is the museum’s permanent exhibition containing satellites, scout vehicles, rockets and other artefacts from the world of space exploration, suitable for all ages.
The Science Museum is open 7 days a week and entry is free.
Dark Skies Project
Be sure to check out the Dark Skies project. All over the UK, people can involve themselves in creating a map of local stargazing places where there is low light emission from streetlights. Under really dark skies, you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. One of our favourite spots is the island of Sark off Guernsey in the Channel Islands which was made the world’s first Dark Sky Island in 2011.
Two other major dark sky areas have been pinpointed in Galloway and Exmoor. Check out this map to find stunning stargazing locations near you.
Not all observatories are open to the public, but the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London offers regular planetarium shows and lots of fantastic learning opportunities for children of all ages. The only downside is the very steep hill you have to walk up to get there!
The Observatory Science Centre in East Sussex offers daily telescope tours and science shows every day until September 1st.
Planetariums offer wonderful opportunities for children and adults to learn about space as you lie back under a dome while projections take you through galaxies far, far away. There are portable planetariums offering shows all over the UK. Find a one near you here.
The Night Sky app’s design is beautiful. It allows you to hold your device up to the sky and find out what you are looking at. Some of the information is fairly complex. For identifying which star or planet you are looking at in real-time with a fabulous sound track, I love it. And even better, it’s just £0.69.
Pocket Universe is another app that allows you to hold your device up to the sky and understand exactly what you’re looking at. You can also take virtual walks on the surface of the Moon and Mars and the app contains quiz games and suggested observation tips with links to Wikipedia for the most current information. At £1.99, an awesome app.
For young children, There’s No Place Like Space (Dr. Seuss) is a wonderful app although pricey at £3.99. It is an animated book with interactive learning opportunities such as tapping on stars to reveal constellations. There’s even a Seuss mnemonic to help children learn the order of the planets in our solar system.
Do your children have an interest in the universe around them? Please let us know of any other books, apps and places you have found helpful.