I have just come home from a night out at the Sydney Observatory (Australia) – and after all my careful planning, and researching, and offerings to the weather gods, I only JUST NOW learnt that today (May 6 2016) is International Space Day. So, to save you the same embarrassment I’ll share some details.
What is International Space Day?
It started in 1997 with the Lockheed Martin Corporation thinking it would be a great idea for a one-day event. They simply didn’t realize how big a deal it would be. When Senator John Glenn (a former astronaut himself) heard about its popularity, he expanded Space Day to International Space Day!! (cue dramatic/uplifting music) It now falls on the first Friday of May each year. #spaceday
To be honest, I thought it was just a US thing. But as mentioned above, I just came back from a night at the Observatory. And if there is one thing they made abundantly clear, it is that SPACE is not a single country responsibility. There is plenty of it to go around, and that goes doubly so for International Space Day. Check out your social media and you’ll find all manner of people embracing the opportunity to celebrate all things ‘Spacey’.
What can I do on Space Day?
Anything you want. This is one of those days purely driven by YOUR interest. 7yo Nefarious and I attended a Night Tour of the Sydney Observatory. We checked out three telescopes, exhibits of historic equipment, two 3D movies on space exploration, and a visit to the Planetarium.
The tour guide was great with kids – a uni student herself, Kristen displayed a contagious level of enthusiasm and loved any discussion we started. We viewed planets, stars, globular clusters, and one or two passing planes.
Now, to be honest – I had planned this visit for a few weeks. Nefarious turned 7 last week and his birthday present was a solo visit to anywhere in Sydney. He chose the Observatory because he loves Space and Engineering. Seriously.
With a bit of planning, I was able to choose a night with the best chance of “seeing” (official star-gazing term). Clear and crisp night, with Jupiter high in the sky for a certain fan of the planet.
You don’t have to go as big for your Space Day celebrations. There are plenty of universities and high schools with their own astronomy clubs. Beating that, you can even just go outside… and look up.
Right now, Australia has a fairly good viewing of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower (the debris of Halley’s Comet. You will have to be up at 4am for the best time. Don’t wake me.
Northern Hemisphere, you will need to check out some skywatching websites for more details. I recommend Space.com to start with.
Space Day is a great opportunity to celebrate anything intergalactic. It can be serious astronomy; It can be sci-fi storytelling. Whatever it is, make sure you go outside and look up for your inspiration. It is an endless source, just waiting for a special day like today.