Kathryn is my young astronomer, and one of her requests this school year was to learn more about the subject! Astronomy is a very unschoolish subject in our homeschool, mostly because she is interest-led enough to do it on her own. (And because she’s already learned WAY more than I know on the subject!)
So, as requested, I’m sharing…
Our favorite astronomy resources:
Books or curriculum:
I gave Kathryn this scratch-and-sketch book for Christmas, and it turned out to be one of her favorite gifts:
Apologia’s Exploring Creation With Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright. We haven’t used this one because I think Kathryn already knows everything in this, and it’s geared toward younger children. However, we have used and loved other Exploring Creation books, so I think this would be a great one to use.
My mom gave Kathryn an Introduction to Practical Astronomy book, but I think it’s out of print. Good, but there are plenty of other good ones out there.
Kathryn’s favorite iPhone/iPod app is called “Planets.” It has SO much information! You can point it at the sky and use it to identify where the planets are at any given time. Awesome. And free!
The Tellus Science Museum is not too far from us, located in Cartersville, Georgia. They have events throughout the year, like this Junior Observatory Workshop.
A homeschooling dad is doing a series on astronomy at Tales of a House Husband. How fun is that!?
The NASA site for students. Kathryn could spend hours on this site. She likes the games but mostly loves the plethora of interesting info found here.
Zooniverse: Real Science Online: crowd-sourced science projects like helping identify galaxies.
Heavens Above: lets you see what satellites or space stations are going overhead.
StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers: another good site with interesting information and a few fun games.
Amazing Space: uses the Hubble Space Telescope’s discoveries to inspire and educate about the wonders of our universe.
Stellarium: a free open source planetarium for your computer.
Cloudy Nights: a good forum to get involved with if you are looking to learn, ask questions, buy/sell astronomy equipment.
Telescopes for Kids Resource Guide: more resources and suggestions on where to star gaze. (Thanks to my young friends at Brenham Community Center for sending me this one to add!)
How to choose a telescope:
We have a good friend who is an avid astronomy hobbyist. I asked him for tips on how to find a good, reasonably priced telescope, and he had oodles of great info for us.
When buying a telescope, consider what you are looking for. Many features have a great impact on price range, so decide what is most important to you. Mirrors: the bigger the optics, the more light the telescope gathers and the more faint objects you can see. (My friend started with an Orion 10” reflector and has upgraded to a 14.5” — which is huge!) Motors: your telescope can track objects for you with a motor, but these start to get expensive. You can choose a motorized telescope, a telescope that will sit on a tracking platform, or one that doesn’t do either.
The 3 main type of telescopes:
- Catadioptric: these usually have the motors built in and are expensive. The most popular are Meade and Celestron.
- Reflector: usually do not come with motors. You can have a platform built for these (which is what my friend did). Orion has a good line of telescopes that are motorized and non-motorized.
- Refractor: Usually the most expensive out of the telescope (based on the size of the optics)
Check out Astromart, like the eBay version of astronomy equipment. There is a one-time fee to become a member but you can still look through all the “for sale” items without joining. You can also check out Craigslist, but it’s much more limited in what you can find.
Before buying any equipment, you may want to get involved with a local astronomy club so you can go out and see the different types of telescopes to decide what you like best. My friend is part of a group that meets monthly for viewing sessions.
Any more resources you’ve found?
If you know of any other astronomy resources, please share them in the comments!
Is there a subject your child has jumped on with such interest? It’s so fun to see her enthusiasm, and I’ve been learning just from her telling me all about it!