Stargazing is one of the favorite things kids would love to do with their parents and siblings. It’s fun and at the same time relaxing to stare at the clear and calm night sky. The twinkling stars are like buttons turning on a child’s imagination and interest. But as much as kids love to marvel and work up their creativity.
Stars and all the heavenly bodies fall under astronomy. However, such discipline is so complex that children require their parents’ constant guidance as they unlock the mysteries of stars, satellites, comets, and asteroids from one heavenly body after another. The article Introducing Astronomy to Kids is a great springboard for parents who find it quite challenging to navigate the core concepts of Grade 1 Astronomy. It offers a simple yet systematic pedagogy that parents can easily utilize for their budding astronomers.
Before anything else, it would be best to use the worksheets Night Sky Search and Observing the Sky to help fire up your child’s interest towards astronomy. These interactive worksheets are specially designed to help kids understand the difference between day and night while showing a glimpse as to how fun and interesting astronomy is.
Stars – What Your Kids Should Know
Stars are giant balls of hydrogen and helium gasses that appear like twinkling dots in a clear night sky. We only get to see them at night because the sun makes the sky so bright during the day that it outshines the dimmer illuminations of the distant stars. The Sun is a star itself and the only one closest to Earth. It is the center of the solar system and the same goes with other systems in the galaxy.
What is the Solar System?
The solar system is a collection of a single star which is our sun and is orbited by eight planets including Earth. Our world is the third rock from the Sun or one of the four terrestrial planets namely Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The other four planets in the outer orbit are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and they are categorically referred to as gas giants. Our solar system is part of a galaxy known as the Milky Way. Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, has about 100 thousand million stars that make up the millions of systems just like our very own solar system.
Our Sun is a Star!
Our sun, which has a diameter of 864,000 is classified as a middle-sized star. Although the rest of the stars look like glowing pin pricks in the night sky, there are those that are about 1,000 times bigger than our sun. That being said, stars look so tiny because they are so far away from us. Put into perspective, our sun is 151 million kilometers away from Earth and the closest star other than our sun is four light years away and one light year is equivalent to 9 trillion kilometers.
Twinkle, Twinkle, (not so) Little Stars!
Why do stars twinkle? This is perhaps one of the most common questions kids ask to their parents. Technically speaking, stars do not actually twinkle. They just appear to be. As mentioned earlier, stars are mainly made up of hydrogen and helium. Nuclear fusion is a major process that consistently and simultaneously takes place within the star’s core – two atoms of hydrogen are compressed or forged to form a single helium atom. It is through this process that the star is able to produce both heat and light energies.
This light energy then travels through space and passes through Earth’s multi-layered atmosphere. As light travels through these layers, the energy gets directly affected by several elements such as wind, temperature, and density. Light is bent which makes a star twinkling if observed from the Earth’s surface.
Stars Are Not That Cute…
It was mentioned a while ago that our sun is classified as a medium-sized star. This simply means that there are billions of other stars in the universe that literally makes our sun appear like a speck. In terms of size, the largest category of a star is the Hypergiant. UY Scuti is an example of a Hypergiant and has a diameter of 2.3 billion kilometers. Comparatively speaking, the volume of hypergiant UY Scuti is equivalent to 5 billion suns. This aforementioned hypergiant can be found in the constellation Scutum and is about 9,500 light years away.
Constellations – Drawings in the Sky!
The Milky Way galaxy alone comprises about 400 billion stars. Although a powerful telescope can help an astronomer spy on 50 million stars, our naked eye can only see about 5,000 stars, more or less. Some stars are brighter than the others and there are those that appear to be closer with each other or in clusters. These groups of stars eventually form familiar patterns which are referred to by astronomers as constellations. To date, there are about 88 constellations which aid astronomers in identifying and observing the stars and the space as a whole.