For the Kids: Space Exploration

Half Moon

This last weekend has seen a lot of amazing things space wise. Nasa landed the space bot Phoenix on the surface of mars and you can actually see the first photos from Phoenix of the northern pole of Mars. I have already been on the Nasa site several times with my little guys, especially my 3 year old who wants to be the first man to go to Mars. The are very excited by all the images and I’m sure I will be going back to the Nasa site to see if they have uploaded more images onto their site.

Although the whole landing and Mars stuff was a huge hit in my home, what was even bigger was a new World Wide Telescope that launched this weekend. I stumbled across it at 4:30am on Sunday morning, unable to sleep so I decided to work… ugh.

This is a great program that you download onto your computer. It has features where you can explore different planets and different parts of our night sky. It covers planets, solar systems, galaxies, stars, black holes, and many many more topics. When you click on a section of the map, say Mercury, you can pull up the basic information about the planet; size, ect., ect. You can also hit a button for more information and it will take you to websites with more in depth information about the topic and will also upload telescopic images of the object that you are studying.

The big draw for me, more than the self discovery, although I love that too, are the guided tours. In these, a scientist is talking about a certain topic, i.e. black holes. On the screen, they show you where you can find the black hole with a proper telescope, i.e. beside the constellation sagitarius and they talk about the research and information that they have gathered from it. It is very informative and they are short enough to keep the attention of young children.

Parents can also connect to an online telescope but the downside of this is that after a few hours of trying, I gave up. I couldn’t get the programs and drivers to work so I am not sure what I need to get the telescope to work or what it is like when it is working. I couldn’t find any helpful information on the site for loading but it may have been the hour and my state of mind by that point.

So if you are looking for ways to learn about the solar system, I would strongly recommend this site. It is an amazing program and can really help older children with their science projects.

Sirena Van Schaik

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