If your kid’s ceiling is plastered with glow-in-the-dark stars or you’re constantly fielding questions about aliens and spaceships, consider going to Astronomy Nights at the Hinsdale Public Library, 20 E. Maple St., Hinsdale.
"It’s such a well-run program," says Dawn Lantero, whose family regularly attends. "It’s like they bring the planetarium right here to our neighborhood."
"Kids just really get excited about being able to use all these different telescopes," says Lantero. "The kids will go to one telescope and see the surface of the moon then go to the next telescope and see Jupiter or the rings around Saturn."
Debra Lazar-Pearl, who organizes the event, says the program usually has about six telescopes available for the entire community (not just Hinsdale residents) to view the stars, planets and other celestial phenomenon. So, kids can look at the stars or be part of educational discussions and other indoor activities. "They have games and hand-outs for kids so we can find what we want to see," says Michael Lantero, 11.
Astronomy Nights has attracted more than 2,000 astronomy stargazers since it began about two years ago. This month the group will gather from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 17 for "How High the Moon and Related Astronomical Projects."
Argonne physicist Jack Uretsky will moderate a discussion on how to measure the distance from the Earth to the moon using familiar landmarks such as the Sears Tower. "Kids get restless during lectures. This will be very interactive," says Uretsky. Visitors will also get a chance to view Saturn, Great Orion Nebula, Mars, the Pleiades and the Beehive Cluster.
Astronomy Nights runs for three hours but families generally drop in and out. Lantero says her family spends about 45 minutes. It gives the kids enough time to use the telescopes and check out the program.
"It’s one of those things that appeals to children of all ages. My eighth grade daughter is just as happy to go as my third and fifth graders. The older ones don’t find it babyish and can get just as much out of it as the younger ones," says Lantero, whose two older children, Allison, 16, and Christina, 14, volunteer and help younger children on the telescopes.
"I like to see all the planets," says Lantero’s son, Michael. "It’s so cool to see what’s really out there."
Starting this month, the library will also make three telescopes available to check-out. There is no cost but anyone interested in doing so must attend two instructional classes—one on how telescopes work and one about finding your way around the night sky. The telescopes are available in three sizes, the smallest of which is recommended for children. (Kids under 18 will be allowed to check out the telescopes with a parent’s signature.)
For more information call (630) 986-1976, or visit www.hplfoundation.org/astronomy_nights_main.htm.