May 14 – International Astronomy Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted by Doug Berger in 1973, International Astronomy Day is held twice a year—in spring and fall—to raise awareness of the benefits and wonder of studying the stars. Museums, observatories, universities and astronomy clubs around the world provide public access to astronomical instruments and hold special programs about this interesting and ancient science. To celebrate, attend an International Astronomy Day event, take time tonight to gaze at the sky and pick out the constellations you recognize, or read about the stars and their importance to history and the future.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

By Stephanie Roth Sisson

 

A boy named Carl Sagan may have lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, but he was part of so much more—a large city on the third planet from the sun in a “neighborhood of stars” which are part of the Milky Way galaxy. Growing up, Carl marveled at the connections. He had an innate curiosity and was astonished by everything he saw; his imagination was out of this world!

When he attended the 1939 World’s Fair as a young child, he experienced things he had never seen before; he saw a robot, new inventions, and a time capsule filled with messages for the future. At night he looked up at the stars and wondered; he thought they looked like lightbulbs on long black wires. He went to the library to read about the stars.At first the librarian thought he meant movie stars, but soon he got the book he wanted. Reading it made his heart beat fast.

Carl imagined what kinds of creatures and sights he might discover if he were able to travel through space. He tried standing with his arms outstretched and wishing he was on Mars like his favorite science fiction character, John Carter, but nothing happened. He decided he would have to make his “life in space” a reality himself so he went to college and became an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, and so much more.

Dr. Carl Sagan then worked with other scientists to develop the exploratory crafts Mariner 2, Mariner 9, and Pioneer 10 that have gone into space to investigate Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. When they sent back pictures, Carl analyzed them and learned more about our solar system

Carl wanted everyone to know and understand Space. He created a television program that explained in easy terms what the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies are made of, how they came to be, and how we are connected to them. The Earth and every living thing are made of star stuff, Carl told his audience. The show – Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – was a hit, watched by millions of people.

Scientists have long wanted to know if life exists on other planets, and as time went on they had the technology to explore the possibilities. Carl worked with other engineers to create Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 to tour the outer solar system and beyond. Remembering that time capsule he saw so long ago at the World’s Fair, Carl had a marvelous idea! He recorded messages and sounds from Earth and made a Golden Record that was carried on each Voyager mission.

Carl Sagan, that boy made of star stuff who grew up to be so many things—astrophysicist, explorer, educator, philosopher, writer, and more—changed the world through the power of his imagination.

Stephanie Roth Sisson’s biography of Carl Sagan wonderfully honors the dreamer and scientist whose imagination went into Space and brought it down to Earth for others to understand and enjoy. The story begins in Sagan’s neighborhood and home, where illustrations depict the curiosity that fueled his passion. Just as the mysteries of Space quickly captured his attention, the pages fill with the night sky and its twinkling lights and celestial bodies. A most ingenious page takes advantage of a two-page vertical spread that transforms Carl’s bedroom window into a space capsule that blasts him into the cosmos as he ponders the stuff of stars.

His work as an adult collaborating with scientists and engineers to develop deep space exploration craft is clearly drawn with pages containing multiple panels of his job and accomplishments up close and from the distance of outer space. A particularly arresting three-page fold-out spread reveals the moment Carl discovered his love of the stars and Earth’s sun (holding a flashlight behind the depiction of the fiery sun would be a show-stopper, especially during a night-time read).

Kids familiar with today’s space travel and the awe-inspiring images sent back to Earth will love this book. To quote Carl Sagan, Star Stuff will definitely elicit a “Wowie!” from readers.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1596439603

International Astronomy Day Activity

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Make a Room Observatory

 

If you like gazing at the stars before going to sleep, why not bring them inside? With adhesive glow-in-the-dark stars, available at craft and toy stores, you can create a night sky full of celestial bodies that stay lit long after you’ve said goodnight. You can add planets, rocket ships—even your favorite constellation! This can be a nice alternative to a night light or transition children from a full night light to a gentle, comforting glow in their room.

Picture Book Review

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