I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair, and just over a year since Carter Observatory re-opened.

We couldn’t make it to the observatory’s “birthday” celebrations, but tonight was special: the last night of summer time (daylight saving ends at 2am tomorrow), and a gloriously clear night – and a Saturday, the day the observatory stays open to allow people to view the skies through their large refracting telescope.

We certainly weren’t the only people taking advantage of these three things to have a family night out – the place was abuzz with tourists and families, giving quite a festive atmosphere.  Having arrived just in time for a planetarium show, we went right in.  The show was “We Are Astronomers“.  Babess was freaked out from the beginning by the huge images zooming around above her.  She lasted maybe five minutes before I had to take her out, leaving The Dad with Pearl and Fainjin to enjoy the dulcet tones of David Tennant (sigh…).

Babess and I played with the balls in the gravity wells for a little bit, then looked at the Thomas Cooke telescope.  Suddenly, I heard howling.  We rushed back to the planetarium to rescue Fainjin and The Dad.  The Dad went back into the theatre, and Fainjin sobbed and cowered in my arms.  The movie had been very scary, he said, especially the rocket.  I was sad for him, the trip had been intended as a treat and he was not enjoying it!

I took them back to the balls and the gravity well, and they could have played there for hours.  Eventually The Dad and Pearl rejoined us, and we waited (quite a while) for the telescope to be ready.  The little ones were unnerved at being out so late, and in the dark.

Babess protested, “I don’t want to see that!”

“What do you want to see, then?”

“Our car!”

I took them outside to look at the stars “with just their eyes”, and soon enough they were ready to have a go at the telescope.  It was pointed at the Southern Cross, and with Babess wriggling on my hip I got the briefest glimpse of a field full of stars, gloriously clear and bright.

In another hour, the telescope would be moved to see Saturn, but with kids drooping on our shoulders we couldn’t wait around.  We walked to the top of the cable car and stood admiring the city lights for a while, and looked up at the stars.  The three kids spontaneously sang “Twinkle twinkle little star”, adorable and sweet and so funny.

I hope that – scary movies and the daaaark notwithstanding – tonight was one of those special events they will remember with wonder.

For an easier space adventure with kids – and you don’t even have to stay up late! – check out WhyMommy’s Planetary Telescopes activity!

© UpsideBackwards 2011.


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