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Family Fun

Star Light, Star Bright

It's summer! Now's a great time to grab the kids and head outside for a little stargazing!

Each year in mid-August, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are treated to the Perseid meteor shower. This year's best viewing is from August 12 to August 14. And you don't need telescopes or binoculars to see the show, just two good eyes. Here's how to get started:

  1. Get prepared. Check out the following Web sites for information about meteors, planets and constellations:

    www.perseidslive.com (NASA site)
    www.mtwilson.edu (Mount Wilson, CA, observatory)
    http://astro.gmu.edu/~novac/perseids.html (North Virginia Astronomy Club)
  2. Take a nap. The show's at its brightest between 11 p.m. and dawn. You can stay up late or wake up early, whichever works best for your family, then catch up on sleep during the day.
  3. Leave town. You'll have to drive away from the city so the lights won't interfere with your viewing. Rural campgrounds and parks work well. If you can normally see the stars from your house, you should be all right in your own back yard.
  4. Get comfy. Pack lawn chairs or a blanket for everyone so you can relax during the show. Pack snack and drinks. Be sure to bring jackets in case it gets cool.
  5. Look up. Sit on the ground and look directly up. If the night is clear, you should be able to see 50-100 meteors per hour. Some will be brighter than others and you'll have time to point them out to younger children. Some are little flashing blips and others have long, arcing tails that seem to trail across the entire horizon. The copper green trails are especially beautiful.
  6. Look for more. Once in a while, you may be able to pick out some planets like Jupiter and Saturn. You can also point out constellations and satellites. Explain how satellites bring television into our lives.
  7. Find God. Now's a great time to talk to your kids about the power, magnitude and mystery of our universe and its Creator! Read Genesis 1 and 2 and Psalm 8 to remind your children where all this cool stuff came from.

?by Sandra Byrd

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