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Home Planetarium Offers Fun Astronomy For Kids
Children are fascinated with space. From watching a rocket launch to looking for constellations and spotting meteorites, astronomy for kids can spark their interest and imagination in this amazing topic. Just going outside to look at stars and planets can be a thrill. It's even better when kids can name stars and identify constellations.
A home planetarium is a great way to have fun exploring astronomy for kids. It doesn't require a huge financial investment to get started. Kids can make a simple star projector using a recycled cylindrical container - such as a coffee can - along with a flashlight and support stand. Use a star chart to trace out overhead constellations and poke small holes in the container lid. Put a flashlight inside and place on an angled support stand. In a dark room, the homemade projector casts patterns from the lid. Larger holes represent brighter stars or planets.
Home planetarium kits are available to introduce astronomy for kids. These sky-gazing kits require assembly to create a curved paper projector. Adult support may be required to achieve the desired results. Kids love identifying constellations. Many children's books tell the different mythology stories behind constellation names.
For more accurate stargazing, modify an inexpensive metal Earth globe. Carefully drill small holes, following a sky map. Semi-spherical maps are available for each hemisphere and can be wrapped around the globe for guidance. Different sized drill bits represent star magnitudes, with smaller bits (e.g. 45-48) for magnitude 0-1 stars all the way up to large bits (e.g. 80) for magnitude 5 giants. Make sure the globe can be opened and shut to access the light source. Mounting the projector can be a little challenging. Seeing the full sky requires tilting the globe and repositioning the light source, so a circular bracket might work. Handle the globe carefully when the light source is on, as metal heats up. Your home planetarium is ready to go. You now have a great tool to have fun with astronomy for kids. Amateur astronomers enjoy recognizing larger stars and clusters like the Pleiades.
For the child who dreams of a full planetarium experience, even greater ingenuity can yield wonderful results. Any large metal cylinder can be turned into a star projector. It takes time to drill holes representing more accurate and numerous stars. Commercially available lenses provide brighter stars. A powerful light source also increases visibility. Real enthusiasts can create adjustable mountings that correspond to latitude.
To achieve a curved projection surface in the home planetarium, try a dome tent with a dark tarp on top. For larger audiences, make a dome with curved metal struts and cloth. Some construction toys can form a geodesic dome. Drape a parachute on top. A perfect dome is extremely difficult to make, so be prepared for the next best thing. To explore astronomy for kids, experiment with different approaches. Simple projectors are a good starting point. Some families decide to get more ambitious and create a dedicated home planetarium. It's a great way to study space as well as 3-dimensional shapes, light projection, and other concepts.