How to Teach Grown-up About Pluto is a fascinating book about the solar system that will equip kids with everything they need to know to explain why Pluto was once considered a planet and why it isn’t anymore. Are there more planets in our solar system? There just might be. That’s the fantastic thing about science – we’re always discovering, we’re always learning.
Which Astronomical Events to Look Out for this Year
Special Guest Post by Dean Regas
I am really looking forward to summer and fall stargazing. There is nothing better than getting out under the stars with friends and family on a nice warm evening. And we have the big planets, Saturn and Jupiter, returning as well. First you can try seeing some shooting stars, some meteors. The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks around August 12-13. This is when you can see about a dozen meteors per hour streaking across the sky. The Moon will be pretty bright and might get in the way of seeing the fainter meteors, but it is still a good excuse to get outside late at night.
Then the ringed planet Saturn shines in prime time, right after sunset starting in mid-August. To the naked eye, Saturn looks like an ordinary, bright, yellow star. But through a telescope you can actually see the rings. It looks so perfect that you might think it’s fake – or someone put a sticker on the end of the telescope. But that is the real thing!
Jupiter will follow Saturn and be at its closest approach to Earth in late September. It will look twice as bright as Saturn and really stand out. Through a telescope you can see the stripes on the planet, four moons, and maybe even Jupiter’s massive storm, the Great Red Spot.
But the biggest astronomical event for any Earthling is a total solar eclipse. This is the ultra-rare, brief moment when the Moon completely blocks out the Sun. Picture this: it’s a sunny day and then you begin to notice the light outside starting to look weird. The sky takes on a purple-silver tint. The temperature drops. The birds go to sleep while crickets start chirping.
Then, “whoosh” it suddenly gets dark as twilight. You look up and the Sun is gone! Replaced by a black hole that is the Moon, you can only see wispy tendrils of the solar corona, the Sun’s upper atmosphere. It is so dark you can see the brighter stars in the sky. It is such a strange and eerie experience that you wonder if it is real. You might even feel compelled to yell out, “wowwwwwww!”
Then after a few minutes, the Moon shifts a bit and the sunlight returns. The sky goes back to its normal shade. The crickets stop chirping, the birds come back out, you catch your breath, and the world is reborn. And after you experience that, you want to see another one!
You must see the next one. In the United States we actually have two major solar eclipses happening in the next two years. The almost-total solar eclipse will occur on October 14, 2023. Use this as a warm-up. Get your special solar eclipse glasses. Experiment with taking pictures of the eclipse.
But the main show, the total solar eclipse is coming to America on April 8, 2024. You absolutely must take off work or school to see it. Mark your calendars now.
For people in different parts of the world, there will be a total solar eclipse on August 12, 2026 in Iceland and Spain, August 2, 2027 visible across North Africa, and Jul 22, 2028 over parts of Australia.
HOW TO TEACH GROWN-UPS ABOUT PLUTO by Dean Regas, illustrated by Aaron Blecha out now in hardback (£9.99, Britannica Books)
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