by Megan Bittner
Next weekend, August 11-13, the Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak visibility, offering the perfect opportunity to explore astronomy with your homeschoolers and enjoy some summer science fun. Check out this Homeschool Living and try your hand at creating a comet, mapping the stars, and measuring “meteor” craters.
Are shooting stars really stars? Nine Planets answers this question and more with information on meteors, meteorites, and impacts. (Note: A quote cited on this page makes reference to evolution.)
The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year from mid-July to mid-August. Dark skies away from light pollution–such as state parks–abound in rural Virginia. Check out this article for tips on when, where, and how to view it.
This simple experiment uses a few common household items to explore meteor impacts. This is also an excellent experiment to practice using a lab notebook to record data from your experiments. (Click through the series of tabs.)
Comets have been likened to dirty snowballs. Find out why and explore more about comets at Planets for Kids.
You can create a model comet out of dry ice–complete with shooting jets–to explore the construction of a comet and allow students to make observations, discuss changing states of matter and demonstrate measuring skills. (Be sure to follow the instructions and safety tips, as dry ice can cause burns if not handled properly.)
This experiment explores how a comet’s size affects the speed of its melting, and is an excellent opportunity for students to practice documenting their hypothesis, processes, and data in a lab notebook.
In this project, students can diagram the elliptical orbit of a comet to explore and demonstrate how the comet’s orbit and relation to the sun will affect the comet.
The Educated Preschooler offers some cool ideas for exploring stars with young children, including a simple experiment to explain why stars appear to “twinkle,” which would be interesting to older children as well.
Ducksters provides some excellent, simplified information about stars and constellations, and even includes a short quiz.
This comprehensive constellation chart includes maps of the night sky in both the northern and southern hemispheres, as well as detailed information about each of the 88 constellations, such as their locations, their introduction as a constellation, and the stories and myths associated with many of their names. You can also learn about various stars, asterisms, meteor showers–including the upcoming Perseids, and other deep space objects. (I spent a couple of hours exploring this website and didn’t make a dent in the wealth of information available!)
You can download and print a star finder for the northern hemisphere from NASA Space Place. There is a stargazing guide available for each month, as each constellation’s’ visibility changes throughout the year.
Create beautiful star patterns with this simple, but intriguing science experiment.