Back when I was in graduate school, between researching the theoretical interior of neutron stars and teaching undergraduate physics classes and labs, by far my favorite thing to do was to host shows at the Kent State Planetarium. For five years I had the pleasure of serving as planetarium administrator for Kent’s physics department, giving presentations to kids on field trips during the week and putting on public shows on the occasional weekend.
It was definitely in that planetarium, and in the classroom as a teaching assistant, where I solidified my passion for STEM education and outreach. One of the challenges I’ve always enjoyed most when it comes to my career and background is taking complex scientific concepts and making them digestible for the general public. When it came to outer space and the vastness of the universe, it was quite the challenge, but the payoff of getting to act as a science ambassador and engaging with the public, especially young people, was always worth it.
With spring now setting in, as the cold of winter gives way to warmer weather and clearer skies, there’s no better time to get outside and explore the universe through the eyepiece of a telescope. Plan an outing with your family, or encourage your students to dive into the world of astronomy at night from home. Here are a few tips for observing the night sky with a telescope:
“But Dr. Jake,” you may ask, “what if bad weather and cloud cover get in the way of my astronomy experience?” The teachers out there might be thinking, “What if I want to implement astronomy in my classroom? The stars aren’t out during the day when I’m with my students!” Well, you’re still in luck. Here are a few alternatives:
The sense of wonder is a fleeting thing. Especially as adults. When we are fortunate enough to experience it from time to time, it wears off quickly as we settle back down into the normalcy of everyday life. It degrades as we age and lose that spontaneous, youthful level of imagination that we all once had. What better way to reignite that sense of wonder than by pondering the enormity of the universe and reconnecting with the idea that we are sitting on a huge rock surrounded by and hurtling through an endless sea of stars. Until next time, folks.