Tag Archives: NASA

Our first science activity

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Our first activity for our summer of science was not really an experiment, but it was definitely science-related, and we did learn things, so it totally counts, right? Well, I make the rules here, so, yes, it does.

I posted a bit on Tuesday about the transit of Venus across the sun. Tuesday was the last chance to see this until 2117, so it seemed like a perfect way to kick off our science learning for the summer. Plus, I thought the children would be very impressed by the pinhole camera.

We started off with the girl feeling sick, so she did not join us outside for our attempts at observation. It was just as well, since we couldn’t get the pinhole camera to work exactly. I mean, we saw poked the hole in the aluminum foil, and we saw the reflection of the sun on the white construction paper, but we couldn’t see Venus. I think it may have been too small to show up on our tiny reflection. Next, the boy suggested we take some digital pictures of the sun and try to see Venus that way. That seemed like a great idea, but my old cheap digital camera was not up to the task.

In the end, we watched the video about the event on NASA’s website and talked about it a bit, but we weren’t able to actually see it for ourselves. I still think it was a success, though, if only because we learned that we need to plan ahead for this sort of thing. We did learn some interesting things, though, mostly about the history of science, and how this was one of the first major world wide collaborations for the sake of science. And, come to think of it, their first effort was not successful, and they learned to plan better for the second transit, 8 years later. So, an interesting parallel.

Anyone else doing science activities with the family?

See the Transit of Venus Across the Sun Safely

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Image courtesy Nasa.gov

Starting at a little after 5:00 CT here in St. Louis, we will be able to see the transit of Venus across the sun for the last time for over 100 years. NASA has a lot of cool information on the scientific relevance of this event, but it is a fun event for anyone interested in space. Around here, it will be an opportunity to create a pinhole camera and do our first summer science event. Technically, this isn’t an experiment, but I am counting it as our weekly science goal because it involves building something and learning science-y stuff, ;).

We are going to make a pinhole camera because, of course, no one should ever look directly at the sun. Ever. You could go blind! They are not making that up–take it seriously! Fortunately, making a pinhole camera is easy and quick.

Click on the image for expanded directions courtesy of San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

All you need is some cardboard or construction paper, a bit of foil, a pin and a friend or family number to enjoy the experience with you.

You can see the transit here starting at just after 5 until sunset, although it will take about 7 hours for the transit to complete. If you click on the graphic above, you can see a larger version with timing all over the world. If you would like to go to a viewing party in the St. Louis area, there are a few, and of course, you can watch it online.

Remember, it is important to be safe when dealing with the sun, but don’t let that stop you from seeing this–I don’t think any of us will be around the next time this happens, in 2117.