No need to limit kids' learning experiences to school hours! Several Bay Area organizations offer telescope viewing to the public so stargazers of all ages can get a close-up view of gleaming planets, luminous moons, and twinkling stars. Pro tip: telescope viewing starts when the sky is dark, so go on a clear fall or winter night for earlier evening viewing times. Observatories with daylight hours offer safe viewing of the sun. In all cases, telescope viewing requires clear skies—check weather conditions before you visit. Catherine Symon has the details on some optimal locations to check out with little ones.
Chabot Space and Science Center (Oakland)
Chabot features hands-on educational exhibits and kid-friendly planetarium shows, making it one of the most family-oriented space programs in the area. For a special space adventure, bring the whole family (ages 4+) for indoor/outdoor sleepover Slumber with the Stars. (the next one is this Friday, August 24!) The cost of the sleepover ticket includes dinner and breakfast.
Daytime telescope viewing: included with general admission (adults, $18; kids 3-12 years, $14) on Saturdays and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Evening telescope viewing: complimentary on Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
San Jose Astronomical Association (Houge Park, San Jose)
The SJAA, a nonprofit group dedicated to educating the public about astronomy, hosts monthly beginners classes (“Astronomy 101” and “Intro to the Night Sky”) geared toward kids. Classes start with an introduction indoors and then move outside, where visitors can use telescopes to explore different constellations each month.
Evening classes and telescope viewing: free to everyone, check website for schedule
Peninsula Astronomical Society (Los Altos Hills)
The PAS, a group of Bay Area astronomy enthusiasts, offers weekly telescope viewings for visitors of all ages at the observatory on the campus of Foothill College.
Daytime and evening telescope viewing: free, but parking on campus costs $3; Fridays 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon.
Catherine is a medical writer whose favorite nighttime sky memory is reading by moonlight during a childhood whitewater rafting trip in Utah.
The original version of this article appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of GGMG Magazine.
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