I gently shake my daughter’s shoulder. It’s 2 am and the house is still. Bleary-eyed, she slowly rouses herself to pull on warm clothes and grab some blankets. Topping off the ensemble is a headband light with a red LED to save our night vision. We sneak down the back stairs, across the lawn and out the back gate into the field behind our house. We spread the blankets and lie down to enjoy the show. In one part of the sky, Jupiter shines brightly. We don’t wait long to see some action. We are lying out on a summer night watching the Perseid meteor shower, a celestial event that gets its name from the constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate. As the meteors are intermittent, we have lots of time to look at constellations, watch for satellites, and even notice the moisture that is condensing on our blanket from the night air. Science is everywhere! It’s fun to share stories about when I was younger and my sister and I slept out under the stars each summer watching the same event. Back then we saw two or three satellites a night – now we can see that many each hour!
…that was last August. We are headed out again tonight to view another night-sky phenomenon: a lunar eclipse. The second eclipse of the year, this one will be more memorable because it is a total eclipse that falls on the winter solstice, a rare occurrence that has not happened for 456 years! The total eclipse will begin around 11:40 pm, reaching its greatest point at about 12:17 am. This time we’ll be enjoying the show from the comfort of a warm car. Watch the sky to the south – the eclipse will be visible above the constellation Orion. What a great way to celebrate the Year of Science with your children!