International Astronomy Day, which lands the day before Mother’s Day this year, was started in 1973 by a man who set up telescopes in urban areas in order to give the people living in cities a chance to see the heavens when they normally wouldn’t. (Most cities have a lot of light pollution, and some have air pollution, which makes it difficult to see the night sky in all its glory.)
To get everyone in the mood for some stargazing, I’ve got four items here that range from the armchair stargazer (so to speak) to the serious astronomer. First, take a look at this Constellations Mug; when it’s cool, the mug depicts a beautiful night sky, but when it’s filled with warm or hot liquid—tea, coffee, hot cocoa—it shows 11 constellations! The constellations are Cassiopeia, Perseus, Sagittarius, Hercules, Andromeda, Scorpius, Taurus, Ursa Major (of which the Big Dipper is a part), Ursa Minor, Orion, and Castor & Pollux.
The next step up from the mug has to be the Celestial Globe. During the day, this globe looks like your average spinning Earth, but it has an advanced optical display that automatically activates a constellation display as the room darkens.
Now, if you actually want to go outside and stargaze (gasp!), make sure to take this Stardial with you. Similar to a sundial, which tells time during the day, a Stardial helps you tell time at night! A fifteenth-century historical Stardial redesigned as a necklace, you can sight the North Star by setting the middle wheel to the month and holding the dial upside down. Simply align the top of the dial’s arm with the highest stars of the Big Dipper, the time will then be displayed on the inner dial where the arm crosses the hour mark. Instructions are included.
Finally, if you’re serious about your (astronomical) stars, look no further than the Stellarscope, the original hand-held star finder. Particularly compact, it can locate and identify up to 1500 stars and 70 constellations! Easy enough for a 9 year old to use, simply select the current time and date and view the night sky via star map. The Stellarscope works accurately between 20 and 60 degrees North or South latitude and includes interchangeable adapters for latitude and hemisphere.
Even if you don’t end up celebrating Astronomy Day proper, take a little time to stargaze next time you’re out at night. Realizing how small we all are compared to everything around us and our Earth definitely puts things into perspective.