Transit of Mercury Inspires Community-Based Learning

Mythology and Mathematics through Stargazing

Transits of Mercury have occurred in 1999, 2003, 2006, and 2016; the next transit of Mercury visible from Earth after the 2019 event will not be until 2032.

The Transit of Mercury is an astronomical phenomenon in which Mercury comes between Earth and the Sun and can be seen as a tiny black dot moving across the sun. Johannes Kepler predicted this event before it was observed visually. That observation was recorded in 1631. Today, we generally hear about astronomical events before they happen, often camping outside at night to see rare occurrences in the sky. How do astronomers predict events like the Transit of Mercury with such accuracy? In short, advanced mathematics. Astronomers draw from concepts of Physics and use Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus to make measurements of distances between objects in the sky, and predictions of when they will appear in various ways from Earth.

You don’t need to know anything about mathematics to appreciate the beauty of the sky, however. For centuries, the sky remained a mystery to humans, and many myths emerged to explain the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Spark a sense of awe with these time-lapsed video shots by NASA from the 2016 event:

Mercury in Transit is the perfect event to engage with local resources and experts via community-based educational events …

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Astronomy Learning this Leading Up to the Autumnal Equinox… and Beyond!

Astronomy Learning this Leading Up to the Autumnal Equinox… and Beyond!

An interest in studying astronomy can develop from an interest in mathematical calculation, or a simple appreciation for the beauty of the sky. Observing the stars can be an act of scientific or spiritual curiosity, or both. While some people lament the shorter days of fall and winter, longer nights provide more chances to learn about astronomy through observations of the night sky!  Read the rest of this entry »

Web-Based Space Explorations Blast Off Through NASA Kids’ Club

Web-Based Space Explorations Blast Off Through NASA Kids’ Club

Offering a wealth of space-based information presented in a playful way, NASA’s online Kids’ Club presents opportunities for studies of a fascinating yet largely inaccessible realm. Relevant for most ages and easy to use, the Kids’ Club can be a great resource for space enthusiasts!

Space is a fascinating place, and a big part of its appeal is the fact that it’s just out of reach for most human beings. While curious kids aren’t very likely to be able to visit space anytime soon, NASA offers a kid-friendly online space filled with information about the many different missions, projects, and technologies that the organization is responsible for – allowing aspiring astronauts to learn about the ways in which humans research and explore the vast wilderness that is outer space.

The NASA Kids’ Club is an easy to use portal that connects kids to a wealth of information in many forms. The Kids’ Club offers everything from printable games and coloring pages to detailed descriptions of specific aircraft and their uses. Highlights of the website include a section dedicated to NASA’s current and recent missions and a photo gallery filled with images of the many people involved in NASA’s programs at work on a variety of tasks. Smaller sections within the site offer a look at nutrition and menu planning in space, the locations and inhabitants (both human and nonhuman) of NASA center’s across the country, the reasons behind the exploration that NASA guides, and the difference in time and gravity on each of the planets in our solar system.

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Mythology and Mathematics through Stargazing 2016

Transit of Mercury Inspires Community-Based Learning

Transit of Mercury 2006

The transit of Mercury is an astronomical phenomenon in which Mercury comes between Earth and the Sun, and can be seen as a tiny black dot moving across the sun. This event was predicted by Johannes Kepler before it was observed visually. That observation was recorded in 1631. Today, we generally hear about astronomical events before they happen, often camping outside at night to see rare occurrences in the sky. How do astronomers predict events like the transit of Mercury with such accuracy? In short, advanced mathematics. Astronomers draw from concepts of Physics, and use Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus to make measurements of distances between objects in the sky, and predictions of when they will appear in various ways from Earth.

You don’t need to know anything about mathematics to appreciate the beauty of the sky, however. For centuries, the night sky remained largely a mystery to humans, and many myths emerged to explain the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Lunar and solar deities emerged in cultures across the world.

Whether you want to learn more about the mathematics of astronomy, write your own mythological explanations, or simply enjoy the beauty of the sky, you can attend various astronomy-themed events at the Springfield Museums this month. On Monday, May 9 from 10am-1pm, museum visitors can witness the first transit of Mercury since 2006. Check the Museums’ Facebook page to make sure the event is happening, as it is weather dependent. On Saturday, May 14 from 12-4pm, visitors can engage in safe sunspot viewing, and see a collection of meteorites. There will be hands-on activities for all ages, information about how craters are formed on the moon, and a space sensory bin for kids.

May 9th and 14th events are free with museum admission. Planetarium shows are $3 for adults, $2 for children ages 3-17, and free for members. 413-263-6800, ext. 318. 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA.

Want to learn how to view on your own? Lucie Green describes what will happen when Mercury transits the face of the Sun, and how to observe it safely.


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Astronomy Resources for Budding Scientists

Astronomy Resources for Budding Scientists!

Being accessible to everyone, everywhere, at all times, the sky is the ultimate community-based educational resource! Using a wealth of resources from books to apps, citizen science to local planetariums, families can explore outer space together and learn experientially about the sky above us.

Studies of outer space can be intriguing to young minds – particularly due to their mysterious nature. In plain sight all day and all night, the sky is filled with fascinating things both big and bright that are impossible to touch and nearly impossible to experience (there aren’t a lot of job openings for astronauts these days).

In order to support young Earth-bound astronomers in their pursuit of learning about all things outer space, families can utilize online resources, books, and – best of all – numerous community-based learning opportunities and resources!

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