Rey, H.A. Find the Constellations, 2nd Edition. New York: Sandpiper, 2008.
This past Friday evening, I found myself at the Georgetown Public Library for a stargazing event for tweens. “What are tweens?” my husband asked, when I described the event we were attending. Referencing the library poster, I informed him that tweens were children 9-12. I am so glad that the library is developing activities for this group of children. I remember when my girls turned this age that there were so library/literacy things for them to do. They are too old for story time, but too young for some of the events for adults and teenagers.
As advertised this event was to feature stargazing in the library parking lot by the Williamson County Astronomy Club. My husband is a member. His connection to the event is how I happened to be at the library on a Friday evening. Alas, it had been a gloomy day it was an equally gloomy evening, the outside stargazing was scrubbed, but the program was scheduled and so Plan B was used. The librarians already had the most important items for an evening for tweens, food (Probably a part of their Plan A)! There were star-shaped rice crispy bars, asteroids (grapes) and flying saucers (pizza). After food there were crafts. I particularly liked the one with the rocket ship and straws. There was also make a kaleidoscope station and make a constellation station using mini-marsh mellows and toothpicks. I wonder, if they found a book in their collection with these activities or if they found them on Pinterest? All of them looked fun!
Realizing a few days before the event that anything outside would be scrubbed. The Williamson County Astronomy Club moved to their Plan B. Several amateur astronomers brought their telescopes inside and set them up so the students could take a look at them and ask questions. The club president provided a very interesting 30-minute presentation on basic astronomy, including: a bit about the different types of telescopes (there were 3 different ones on display), how telescopes work, things you might see with one, and a small bit on light pollution. Only about 10-15 tweens attended, but all of them paid attention during the presentation part of the evening. At the end, they had thoughtful and intelligent questions to ask the group of amateur astronomers. One tween asked about who gets to name constellations, which brought a wonderful answer from the club president, “they were named a long, long time ago”. This question and its response jogged loose the memory that I had this book in my collection, Finding the Constellations, 2nd Edition.
This book was written by H.A. Rey in 1954 and was updated in 2008. I found it on a past vacation and wanted it, because H.A. Rey, the author of the Curious George series, wrote it. I love his style of illustration. I was also intrigued by its content. It is a delightful explanation of the constellations and how to find them. Here is a bit from the foreword.
Few people can tell one star from another. Most of us can tell an oak from a maple or a jay from a woodpecker even though we don’t see woodpeckers often, but the stars, which we see any clear night, remain a mystery to us.
Yet it is not difficult to know them. Simple shepherds, 5,000 years ago were familiar with the heavens; they knew the stars and constellations – and they could not even read or write – so why don’t you?
Its is good to know the stars, if only to enjoy better the wonderful sight of the starry sky. But you simply must know them if you are interested in space travel.
I wish I had taken it with me on Friday. I think it would have been a cool resource to share. It was written for tweens. It has plenty of basic astronomy information, but is written in a fun and chatty style. You can learn about star magnitudes, their names, and where to find them in the constellations we see in our northern hemisphere night sky. Did you know that there are only 15 stars of the 1st magnitude (brightest) in our northern skies? If you remember that constellation names came from the distant past, you also might remember that some of them come from ancient myths. He tells the stories of two of them, Andromeda and Orion.
The book contains some very practical help. It has sky view charts for winter, summer, spring, and autumn stars. It has some helpful hints for stargazing outdoors. Although they aren’t constellations, he doesn’t neglect our solar systems planets. Some of them are as bright in our night sky as a star.
Alas our skies are not as dark as they were for H.A. Rey, but there are still some wonderful sights to behold. So find a clear night, drag out your comfy chair, or better yet a blanket, and look up. You don’t need any fancy equipment to view our heavens. I end this blog the way Mr. Rey ends his book: Happy stargazing!
Here are some interesting links for you.
- Georgetown Public Library: https://library.georgetown.org/
- Williamson County Astronomy Club: http://www.williamson-astro.org/
- International Dark-Sky Association: http://www.darksky.org/
- Light Pollution Map: https://goo.gl/vQdqGE
- 15 Best Space Watching Apps: https://goo.gl/kiwZyU
- PDF Sky Charts: http://www.midnightkite.com/