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scrkpr
2007-Jul-16, 11:50 AM
Pls help me out. My son is 4 y/o and is very much into all types of science. Animals, dinosaurs, science experiments and now planets and space shuttles. It's been his "thing" for some time now. And not just in the little attention span that chilren give things. It's been over a year now. We live on Orlando so we got passes to the Visitors Complex at Kennedy. He LOVES it!!! For about 6 months he's been nagging me to buy him a telescope. Now, I'm not one of those parents who goes and buys expensive things for their kid every time they ask. We got annual passes to the Space Center for him. But he really want to Mars' red spot and Pluto and Jupiter's moons. (I'm not kidding, my 4 y/o really thought of all this stuff on his own)

So, what am I to do? He's smart and I want to encourage him where his intererest takes him. But I'm NOT buying a little kid his own telescope. Is there somewhere I can visit? Or a way to hook up with other people and view with them? Any ideas would be appreciated. To tell the truth I'm not surprised my kid likes astronomy (this is my dad's thing but he could never afford a tele.) I grew up surrounded by it and it rubbed off on me too :)

Glom
2007-Jul-16, 12:03 PM
Welcome to BAUT.

I think your instinct's regarding a telescope are correct. In fact, they apply to anyone starting out in amateur astronomy. Binoculars, not too bad an idea (features expensive glass, do not leave him unsupervised). With binos, you could see a whole load more stuff, including the Galilean moons or Jupiter. The red spot (which is on Jupiter, not Mars BTW) is a bit of a bugger to see at the best of times. I haven't been able to get a clear view of it.

Getting involved in an astronomical society is the best bet at present. This one (http://www.cfas.org/) seems quite near to you.

scrkpr
2007-Jul-16, 12:36 PM
I know that it's on Jupiter, I'm just giving you my son's words here. :lol: Why does there have to be a red planet and a planet with a red spot? It's confusing when your little. Anyway, I'll check that link out.

Siguy
2007-Jul-16, 03:53 PM
I'm pretty sure that most observatories (at least the closest one to where I am), have free public observing nights every week or so. You should check with your local astronomical society. Do a search, they probably have a website. Also, If there is a popular astronomy location nearby, there should be people with their telescopes set up there once in a while.

Pluto is near impossible to see with most telescopes. At 15th magnitude, it can only be seen with very large telescopes or in astrophotographs. Even then it will only look like a nondescript dim dot. Jupiter's four largest moons are easy to see even with the smallest of telescopes, as is it's cloud belts, but it's red spot is harder. Mars is only visible in early morning hours currently, but it will probably be visible earlier in a few months.

aurora
2007-Jul-16, 05:44 PM
In addition to astronomy clubs (search on the Sky and Telescope or Astronomical League web sites) that may have public viewing nights, or observatories that might have public viewing nights, also consider planetariums.

You might also want to consider something like the Orion Star Blast, inexpensive, small, easy to operate with guidance from an adult.

01101001
2007-Jul-16, 06:07 PM
I'm pretty sure that most observatories (at least the closest one to where I am), have free public observing nights every week or so. You should check with your local astronomical society.

Yeah, drag the kid out late night to see some stuff, at a local observatory during public access or to a club's star party. It can be sleep disrupting, cold, boring, but it can be fun and even educational. Ask how other 4-year-olds do.

One glimpse of, say, Saturn and its majestic rings with one's very own eyes can be memorable, and inspirational.

It might cement an interest that can be enhanced later at a more responsible age with a delicate instrument.

scrkpr
2007-Jul-16, 09:28 PM
Okay, I'll check out the local societies andsee what I can find. Thanks so much for the guidance and prompt responses. I don't mind keeping my kid up late for something like this. :)

Casus_belli
2007-Jul-16, 10:42 PM
If you live in a light polluted area then just taking him from the city and showing him the milky way on a moonless night will probably be a memorable experiance for him. Be sure to wrap him well for a cold astronomer is not a happy one. Whatever the age.

Binoculars are probably the best option. Cheap telescopes are a total waste of time, dont waste your money.

Theres plenty free virtual planetariums

www.stellarium.org

is the one I use.

And any questions just ask. Like your little boy we were all four once upon a time and we all had a million and one questions.

scrkpr
2007-Jul-17, 11:02 AM
I found 2 local planetariums and an observatory. I can't believe how cheap shows are at the planetarium. We are definately going! The observatory how shows every weekend. And the local star club is based in the same town I live in. (talk about lucky) Anyway, I found the list of their monthly star-gazes and those are quite a drive away. There's o much light pollution here in Central Florida. But I think I will take my kid to the next one and see how he likes it anyway. There were a list of rules on the website about turning of car lights, and bringing red flashlights, and parking with your facing a certain direction, etc. I understand why all of them are necessary I'm just sure I will never remember them all and blind some poor fellow. Oh well, we will have fun with all this stuff. Thanks a bundle. :D

aurora
2007-Jul-17, 04:29 PM
For the star party, the best thing is to arrive before dark. And try to park facing away from the event, so that when your young one gets tired, you can leave early without disturbing others.

If the star gaze is like our club's regular public events, they are used to having a lot of people show up who don't understand about seeing and darkness, so you shouldn't have to worry about it. We tend not to try to do any serious observing or imaging at a public event for that reason.

selden
2007-Jul-17, 05:06 PM
Another free astronomy program you might consider is Celestia (http://www.shatters.net/celestia).