Exploring the Night Sky: Astronomy Festival for All Ages

On Thursday, February 27, we had a special astronomy festival for the whole family! People of all ages got to learn something new and inspiring about the way our understanding of the universe has grown, and also the ways that you can help scientists track changes in night sky visibility.

Globe At Night Neighborhood Science Kit

When Los Angeles Public Library got a grant for bringing Neighborhood Science to other libraries, Pasadena was chosen as one of the first libraries to get their Neighborhood Science kits. There are currently five Neighborhood Science kits at Pasadena that you can check out and use to conduct observations and collect data that will help scientists understand more about the way our climate is changing, our air and water quality is changing, etc.

The Globe At Night kit includes a Sky Quality Meter for measuring the darkness in your area, and other tools and information. You can use a Sky Quality Meter to get a reading of the sky's level of darkness, and then upload that reading to the databases that scientists are using to track changes. You can use either the Loss of the Night app (free, available for iPhones and Android phones) or the Globe at Night website for uploading your data.

Here is my slideshow with more information about the tools in our Globe at Night kit and how to use them:

Exploring the Universe with the Spitzer Space Telescope

This author talk was organized by our Adult Services librarian, Christine Reeder.

Dr. Peter Eisenhardt and Dr. Michael Werner worked for decades to develop and operate the Spitzer Space Telescope, an infrared telescope that tells us more about stars and galaxies in our universe that normally can't be seen. With that powerful telescope they were able to discover:
  • planets in the Goldilocks Zone that might have the right amount of heat for sustaining water, and therefore life
  • stars as they were being formed billions of years ago
  • stars that you can't see because they are so far away, their light has shifted to the infrared spectrum.
  • and more!
I strongly recommend you visit the Spitzer Space Telescope website to learn more about their discoveries, and also check out their book, More Things in the Heavens!

Here, Dr. Michael Werner shares how much we can learn about distant planets and solar systems from observing them with an infrared telescope. Using the Spitzer, he could tell you a lot about the makeup and orbits of planets that have never been seen, just based on analyzing this infrared data. And those discoveries are furthering the discovery of planets that might be conducive to life.
Here, Dr. Peter Eisenhardt shows a comparison of just how many more stars and galaxies we were able to see with the infrared capabilities of the Spitzer Space Telescope, because as the universe gets older and expands, the light moves farther into the infrared part of the spectrum.

I was glad to see a great showing for this author talk with a lot of people asking questions, including kids as young as nine or ten. A lot of dense scientific discussion for such young kids, but in Pasadena, we are a city of astronomers!

Planetarium Show with Carnegie Observatories

We were delighted to have Dr. Jeff Rich with Carnegie Observatories come back to Pasadena Public Library with his planetarium show, which shares the things Carnegie Science is observing with their telescopes in Chile! The Chile location was chosen because it has a great level of darkness that is optimal for seeing more of the universe. With the planetarium, Dr. Rich was able to bring the Chile skies to us, and show us all the amazing stars that we miss out on because of light pollution in the city.

You can hear the awe and wonder participants experienced when Dr. Rich showed them some of the stars they can't normally see!

Coloring Book Project

The planetarium show was very popular, especially for families with young kids. But the planetarium can only safely seat around 30 people at a time. So we had some times when people had to wait in line. While they waited, kids were given a coloring book with easy-to-read information about the planets in our solar system. The coloring books made the time go faster--and they went fast, too!


You can download the original (full page landscape) version, created by Dorrance Planetarium and Arizona Science Center, here:

But to give the kids a more "book like" coloring book, I cut the pages and reordered them so that they could be photocopied two-sided and stapled at the spine. If you want that printable version that you can print double-sided and staple like a book, click here to get that PDF.

This program was a collaboration with a lot of people, community partners, and two different library departments. And it was a huge success! It brought 180 people into the library, and many of them had never been to our library before. I'm so glad they got to enjoy such fascinating talks and presentations and hope they'll come back!


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