Night Sky Observation

Ever wanted to visit distant planets or float in zero-gravity? Thanks to advancing technology, you don’t have to be a NASA astronaut to explore our solar system. This summer, explore outer space from your own backyard by looking for constellations, watching meteor showers and more. Discover how scientists predict eclipses, protect the earth from asteroids, and determine the luminosity of stars.

  • Amateur Rocketeers Reach For The Stars

    For decades amateur rocket builders, or "rocketeers," have been aiming their rockets towards space. Now with advances in materials and technology, they're actually able to get there. QUEST travels to rocket launches in fallowed fields and barren deserts to learn more about this addictive hobby and to meet a group of passionate high school rocketeers who are about to launch their rocket into the stratosphere!

    Grades: 6-12
  • Amateur Astronomers

    In this video from QUEST produced by KQED, students learn about what an amateur astronomer is and the role amateur astronomers play in the field of astronomy. Students also learn about how telescopes work.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Eclipse Chasers

    Meet the Bay Area's eclipse chasers -- adventurers who travel the world to witness and document solar eclipses. Learn about the history of solar eclipse watching and the technology used to photograph these spectacular events.

    Grades: 6-12
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    Eclipse Over America | Predicting Eclipses

    Learn about the evolution of eclipse predictions—from ancient Babylonians using a pattern of observations to Edmond Halley, who used mathematics—in this pair of videos from NOVA: Eclipse Over America. Use this resource to stimulate curiosity about the motions of the Sun, the Moon, and Earth and to provide opportunities for students to develop and use models of eclipses.

    Support materials include: Background Reading, Teaching Tips, and Discussion Questions. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA.

    Grades: 6-8
  • Total Solar Eclipse Animation

    Solar eclipses result from the alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. Total solar eclipses — in which the Sun is completely blocked by the Moon — are a spectacular and rare sight to witness. In this animation adapted from NOVA, see why solar eclipses occur and observe a simulated total eclipse. This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Lunar Eclipse Essentials | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Discover what happens during a lunar eclipse in this video from NASA. The orbit of the Moon around Earth causes the monthly phases of the Moon; lunar eclipses occur when the Moon passes through Earth's shadow. The video shows how the appearance of the Moon changes as it passes through Earth's penumbra and umbra, and why Earth's atmosphere causes the Moon to look red during a lunar eclipse. This resource is part of the NASA Planetary Sciences Collection.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Meteors | Crash Course Astronomy

    Meteors are small bits of interplanetary debris broken off from asteroids or comets. When the Earth plows through the stream emitted by a comet, we get a meteor shower. Meteors burn up about 100 km above the Earth, but some survive to hit the ground. Most of these meteorites that reach Earth are rocky, some are metallic, and a few are a mix of the two. Very big meteorites can be a very big problem, but there are plans in the works to prevent us from going the way of the dinosaurs.

    Grades: 9-12
  • 5 Ways to Stop a Killer Asteroid | PBS Space Time

    When it comes to dangerous asteroids striking Earth, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. We have begun to track projectiles large enough to destroy our planet, and we are in the clear for the foreseeable future. However, there are countless asteroids large enough to take out an entire city that we cannot see. Matthew O'Dowd goes over our defensive options in this week's episode of Space Time!

    Grades: 11-12
  • NOVA: Asteroid; Doomsday or Payday? | Protecting Earth from Asteroids

    Explore how scientists are researching methods to prevent asteroids or comets from hitting Earth in this video excerpt from NOVA. In the movies, a threatening near-Earth object is typically blown to pieces. However, a kinetic impactor that changes the course of the object may be a more effective solution in the real world. Hear from a scientist who studies strategies to destroy or deflect an asteroid and watch as he and his team simulate collisions using a model asteroid made of resin and high-speed projectiles. High-speed video allows them to analyze impacts in great detail to see how the fragments behave and how the model asteroid responds.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Formation of Stars | NASA Planetary Sciences

    Discover how the James Webb Space Telescope will help us better understand solar system formation in this video from NASA. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope show star-forming regions within the Eagle nebula: visible light images show vast clouds of gas and dust, and infrared images provide a glimpse inside the clouds. The James Webb Space Telescope will be optimized for infrared observations and give astronomers an unprecedented view of stellar birth. Computer models show how a giant cloud of gas and dust collapses to form stars and planets; reddish colors indicate thicker dust.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • How Many Stars Are There? | It's Okay to Be Smart

    How many stars are there in the universe? Are there more stars out there than grains of sand on Earth? Thanks to advanced space telescopes, we’ve been able to peer farther into deep time and the distant universe than we ever thought possible, and we might finally be able to answer these mind-boggling questions.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Stars | Crash Course Astronomy

    Phil explains the stars and how they can be categorized using their spectra. Together with distance, a star's spectra provides a wealth of information, including their luminosity, size, and temperature. We also learn about the HR diagram, which plots a star's luminosity versus its temperature.

    Grades: 9-12
  • QUEST Lab: Aerogel

    It looks like frozen smoke. And it's the lightest solid material on the planet. Aerogel insulates space suits, makes tennis rackets stronger and could be used one day to clean up oil spills. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Alex Gash shows us some remarkable properties of this truly unique substance.

    Grades: 6-12