Friday, May 4, 2012


Stargazing has been a favorite pass time throughout history. Stars are what guided explorers to new lands and guided the African Americans along the Underground Railroad. Star watching helped people develop the calendar and helped them learn to tell time.

Here are two fun and easy astronomy projects for you and your kids.

How to Make Your Own Sundial

Here are the things you'll need:
· A large paper cup
· A plastic lid
· A straw
· A watch
· A pen and pencil
· Sticky tape
· Sand or stones
· A compass pointing north

Here is what you do:
1. Put a hole in the side of the cup with the pencil. Make sure it is about 2 inches down from the top of the cup, and be sure that the hole is big enough for the straw to fit through it.
2. Next, fill the cup halfway with sand and stone and put the lid on the top of the cup.
3. Push the straw through the hole in the lid, and through the hole in the side of the cup. Make sure that the straw sticks out about 2 inches from the lid.
4. Tape the other end of the straw to the side of the cup.

Try it out:
Get up early the next morning and find a place where the Sun is visible for most of the day. Place your sundial on a flat surface where it will not be disturbed. Point the straw to the north (use your compass to find north).
Using your watch and a pen, as each hour passes, mark where the straw's shadow falls on the cup.

Do this every hour until at least 3 pm. If it gets cloudy, just wait for another day to finish your sundial. The next day, you're ready to use your sundial to tell what time it is.

Make your own Solar Oven:

This is one cool Astronomy craft! You will actually be able to cook your own food with the help of the Sun, when you finish this project.

Here's what you'll need:
· A square pizza box (most pizza places will give you a box if you ask nicely and tell them why you need it)
· A black marker or pen
· A straw or a stick
· A clear, sunny day
· Non-toxic tape or glue
· Aluminum foil
· Plastic wrap
· Scissors
· A ruler
· Paper plates
· Black construction paper
· Hot dogs and buns

Here is what you'll need to do:
1. Draw a square on the top of the box and make sure it's 1 inch away from the edges.
2. Cut along 3 sides of the square on the box. Do not cut along the line along the back of the box.
3. Now, make a flap by folding the top of the box back along the uncut line.
4. Cut a piece of foil about the size of the flap and fit it inside the flap.
5. Glue or tape the foil to the flap, shiny side up. Be careful not to wrinkle the foil. Press the wrinkles out with your fingers.
6. Next, cut the plastic to fit the hole inside the pizza box that the flap made. Make sure the plastic is not much bigger than the hole.
7. Tape the plastic to the box, and seal it tightly so air does not escape.
8. Cut more foil and use it to cover the bottom and sides of the box. Glue or tape the foil in place.
9. Cover the foil inside the box with black construction paper and tape it into place.
10. Put the solar oven on a flat surface, in a place that gets plenty of sun and open the box.
11. Put a paper plate or napkin in the center of the box. Put hot dogs on the plate.
12. Keep the back flap of the box open with a straw or a stick.
13. Make sure to turn the flap towards the sun, so that the Sun reflects off the foil and into the box.
14. Make sure to turn the box when you need to, so that the flap is always facing the Sun.
15. Wait 30 minutes to an hour for the hot dogs to cook.

Be careful, the oven can get very hot!

Astronomy is more than just boring text in a book!

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