Hello! Here in New England we have had a good summer and it isn’t over yet! There are still weeks to go in August of lazy summer days and cool nights. Here at Oak Meadow one event we are all looking forward to is the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017. The following is a quick blast of great information from DeeDee Hughes, our Oak Meadow colleague:
Hi Folks,
We are all a little eclipse-crazy here in Corvallis, Oregon since we are in the “zone of totality” for viewing the total solar eclipse on August 21. I did some research and found this cool interactive map that shows the path of eclipses for years to come. I found a page where you can type in a city name and see what the eclipse will look like from there–I couldn’t resist checking out where friends and family members live. It’s fun to compare different places:  
Brattleboro VT
Santa Cruz CA
Corvallis OR
Seems like everyone in the country will be seeing something cool. Oh, and this article has good info about the solar eclipse glasses and how to tell if you have safe ones. 
I was wondering why the upcoming eclipse is being called “Eclipse of the Century” when they happen all the time, so I dug deeper. A total solar eclipse is different than an annular eclipse, but both have the moon lined up exactly in between Earth and the sun. In an annular eclipse, the moon moves fully in front of the sun but because the moon is further from the Earth at that time, there will be a “ring of fire” seen around the moon, rather than having the moon block the sun entirely the way it does in a total solar eclipse. The difference between an annular and a total solar eclipse is the distance between the moon and Earth. Here’s an article with a cool “ring of fire” photo. 
That’s my two cents on cool eclipse fun! DD
I’ll also add that EARTHSKY has a very good “Eclipse Day” checklist for getting ready for viewing. Be prepared, have fun, and enjoy the “Eclipse of the Century” with family and friends!


“The 2016 December solstice will come on the 21st at 10:44 UTC. That’s 4:44 a.m. on December 21, for those in the central time zone in North America. It’s when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year. This solstice marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, no matter where you are on Earth, it marks the beginning of your shortest season.”
Best wishes for a happy and healthy winter or summer season wherever you are on Earth!

Astronomy for Kids

In Oak Meadow’s fourth grade science coursework, the final block of lessons offers an extensive study on astronomy. The twelve lessons offer educational information, additional book and story selections, sky watching activities, hands-on projects, and artistic exercises.
I highly recommend the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) website to families as a way to further enhance the ongoing lessons. APOD is a collaboration of NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU). Each day, an image or photograph of our universe is featured with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. This website is extremely interesting, as well as quite educational for any budding scientist, astronomer or avid sky watcher.
As part of Oak Meadow’s fourth grade astronomy block, there is a five-week main lesson project, in which the students choose a planet to research and complete a written report. I suggest perusing the website, Kids Astronomyfor additional information. It offers educational websites and interactive games, worksheets, music, and movies.
Meet_the_Planets_CoverOne of Oak Meadow’s enrolled families shared an exciting website they discovered called Meet the Planets. This site (and book) offers awesome portrayals of “Who’s Who & What’s What” in each of the illustrations created by Laurie Allen Klein.
If your family is interested in stargazing, there are many amazing events occurring throughout the year of 2016. The Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events for Calendar Year 2016 is a good site for finding these specific dates. Plato, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, once wrote, “Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” May you find similar inspiration in your sky gazing activities!

What's That Chirp Noise I Hear?

images-3I heard birds chirping outside my office window this morning and I acknowledged to myself what a sweet sound it is. Their twittering reminded me that as the Earth rotates, each of us hears the morning calls of birds. I thought of my students in far off places such as Australia, Costa Rica, and Italy and registered that they were hearing their birds at very different times than each other.
I like to sit back and dwell on the planet as a little spaceship floating in the universe. Here we all are, floating through space together, caught in an orbit of gravitational pull by our sun. I marvel at that! At the same time, I’m also in awe of the scientists that came before me with their observations and predictions about the Earth and the universe. It is because of them that I can even have these thoughts. My studies of their work has led me to know the universe. If you are in the middle grades of Oak Meadow , then you will study the concepts of meteorology and astronomy in 6th grade, to light and sound waves in 8th grade physics, that will serve as a foundation for your own viewing the universe.images-2
One exceptional and admirable scientist you will study about is Albert Einstein. His observations, predictions, and construction of theories continue to amaze us today. Just this month, one of his predictions made over 100 years ago was validated. Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Physicists at The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana have been busy for about twenty five years hoping to detect the sound of gravitational waves.

Then, on September 14, 2015, at just before eleven in the morning, Central European Time, the waves reached Earth. Marco Drago, a thirty-two-year-old Italian postdoctoral student and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, was the first person to notice them. He was sitting in front of his computer at the Albert Einstein Institute, in Hannover, Germany, viewing the LIGO data remotely. The waves appeared on his screen as a compressed squiggle, but the most exquisite ears in the universe, attuned to vibrations of less than a trillionth of an inch, would have heard what astronomers call a chirp—a faint whooping from low to high.

So the other “chirp” I am hearing isn’t the sound of birds! It’s the sound of gravitational waves!
To learn more about this, and to hear the chirp, go to

Summer Viewing!

The night sky in New England, June 30-July 4
from Sky and Telescope
Summer, in New England, is a great time for gathering friends on a warm evening and doing some star viewing. If you know there will be a clear night for star viewing, it’s a great time to HAVE A STAR PARTY! images
Send invitations, make “star” snacks, and put lots of blankets on the ground for friends to sit down on for good viewing. It’s fun to have some binoculars, a telescope, or one of the free astronomy apps available. Make sure you have flashlights for looking at books of constellations! images
Most towns in New England have astronomy clubs and the people in the clubs are usually very willing to come join in the fun and help answer star gazing questions. The Astronomical Society of Northern New England can be contacted for Star Parties!
So if you are thinking of having a party this summer, think about including some star gazing, too!