I’ve always been fascinated with space, and my obsession with astronomy has definitely rubbed off on my kids. Every night before bed, we go outside to look at the moon and see if we can spot any planets, so my husband signed us up for a telescope viewing night with a local astronomy group. It was truly amazing!
We met a group of amateur astronomers and their high-powered telescopes at a big local park just outside of town, where there was less light pollution to obstruct our view. The event we signed up for was to see a rare comet, but our hosts were excited to show us planets and deep space objects, like a nebula, as well. This was a super cool experience that all the kids and adults in our group loved. It was fun, educational, and totally unique. If you’re looking for something special and out of the ordinary to do with your family, I highly recommend scoping out an astronomy club for a night under the stars!
Find A Local Astronomy Club
You can find an astronomy club in your area by searching the NASA Night Sky Network website. Put your city into the “Clubs & Events” section to see when and where there are events happening near you. The Night Sky Network Outreach Program gives astronomy clubs access to additional materials and tools so they can bring official NASA findings and science to their communities. This makes the events extra special and everyone learns a lot!
Contact The Club
You’ll want to make sure to schedule your stargazing adventure at least a month in advance. Depending on your area, volunteers may be limited and need to plan ahead of time to ensure they’re putting on a quality event. Let the club know the ages of everyone in the group and how many people will be attending.
How Much Does It Cost?
Depending on the type of event, fees may vary. Some events are free, but you may be required to pay for a parking permit or park visitors pass. It just depends on where and what the event is, but you can get all of that information from the astronomy club ahead of time.
Where Do Events Take Place?
The events usually take place just outside major cities, in smaller, more suburban areas where there’s less light pollution and more open space. However, some venture to super dark zones in rural areas and may require you to drive further out of town.
How Long Do Events Last?
Most of the astronomers will arrive before the sun sets so that they can set up and calibrate their telescopes with enough light left to see what they’re doing. They will tell you a specific time to show up, but if not, you can arrive after sundown. Events usually last a couple of hours, but some can last until dawn.
What Should I Bring?
If you’re out past dark, it will get chilly even in the summer. Bring picnic blankets, foldable camping chairs, snacks, water, hot cocoa, tea, and whatever else you’ll need to be comfortable for a few hours outside. Your astronomy host will always appreciate a warm drink and a snack as well!
Be Sure To Thank Them!
Be sure to thank the astronomy club or your host for an awesome time! Send a thank-you card or email, and if they have social media, a kind shout out or five-star review goes a long way! Be sure to share any good photos or kind comments from the other guests in your group as well!
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a telescope or even on planetarium tickets to enjoy all our universe has to offer. Kids and adults alike will learn a lot about our solar system in a fun, easy way, and if they’re anything like my family, I’m sure they’ll be eager to spend another night under the stars!