Sometimes I accidently over schedule my little family. I am so excited to get out and do something every time my husband has time off of work that I forget that he sometimes likes to just be home and relax during his down time. Oops. So last weekend I tried to find something a little more low-key that we could do to still get out of the house together as a family, but that wouldn't be quite so high energy. That is when I discovered that the Salt Lake Astronomical Society hosts FREE public star parties about once a month. The kids had just finished learning about galaxies and the different planets and constellations and what not in school, so I thought it sounded perfect! You can find their schedule online here.
They always host two nights back-to-back, Friday night they meet somewhere around Salt Lake, either at Wheeler Farm or the Harmon's parking lot in South Jordan. They bring all their portable telescopes and the society members set them all up, pointing to different celestial sights in the sky. You are then free to wander around looking in the various scopes, they are incredibly helpful and point everything out to you, so that you know exactly what you are looking at. Plus, according to my kids, they can answer any question you may have.
The next night on Saturday they then host at their conservatory out near Tooele. It is a little bit of a farther drive for most, but you get away from the city lights and they have their bigger telescopes there so you can see a lot more.
Since they don't start until dark, obviously, we knew it would be a late night for our kids, so we popped some popcorn and threw some water bottles and a picnic blanket in the back of the car to satisfy their midnight snack cravings and headed out.
I was in full on geek mode... it was so cool! I couldn't believe what looked like just another dot in the sky was actually Saturn. You could look and see an actual circle planet with rings around it. I've obviously seen lots of amazing space photography, but somehow looking at another galaxy and seeing the spiral shape with your own eyes was seriously stunning. The kids loved it too. My oldest was nice enough to comment, "that was way cooler than I thought it was going to be!" Thanks bud! We even brought our 2-year-old, who kept running around shouting, "'nother one, Mommy, 'nother one!" the whole time. He'd then attempt to close one eye and peer into the lens, which was pretty entertaining in itself. They were thoughtful enough to bring plenty of step stools, so my kids could all look on their own without us having to hold them up.
Overall it was perfect for what our family needed last weekend. Lasting memories, but in a more calming, peaceful environment. Plus, it was educational, can't beat that!
Keep cell phones, lights, or other bright devices turned off. This helps preserve night vision. (We asked permission to snap a few quick photos before it got fully dark.)
Follow all safety signs and telescope operator instructions.
This is an outdoor activity. Dress appropriately and wear mosquito repellent (apply away from telescopes).
This is SO fun! My husband would love to do this :)