Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Host an Astronomy Night

These are my notes from the SPACE 2024 presentation, “How to Host an Astronomy Night: Astronomy in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms” by Peter Tlusty (Mr. T) NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador / Richmond Astronomical Society Member.

How to Host an Astronomy Night by by Peter Tlusty” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Links about Peter:

“Tech teacher honored for out-of-this world lessons” (March 2023)

I’m an amateur astronomer! Now teaching K-8 students as a technology resource teacher at a private Catholic school.

First telescope: $30 Meteor telescope on sale at a yard sale for $1!

Great to setup telescopes when the sun is out during the day! Can even look at Venus when it’s up and out in the morning!

Use your iPhone camera as a telescope camera, putting the lens up the eyepiece… Works as well as many paid attachments for cameras.

You can get a great used telescope  for $75 these days.

When sunspots happen on the sun it takes 9 days for that location on the sun to rotate out of view

What constellations can you find / do you know?

The Big Dipper? Remember it is Ursa Major!

Native Americans considered the 4 stars of the cup the bear, the three stars of the handle were hunters chasing the bear

The cup of the bear was pouring out the blood of the hunt, it was being poured out over the country and causing the fall colors

During time of slavery in the USA, the Underground Railroad was very important

  • African Americans called it the ‘drinking goard,’ follow the drinking goard to freedom

Guide stars point to the North Star or pole star: Four lengths of the distance between the guard stars

During the time the Egyptians were building the pyramids, a star in the constellation Draco (“Thuban”) was the pole star / North Star

“Draco the Dragon and Thuban, a former pole star” (

In 4000 BC our pole star will be a star in Cepheus! (Gamma Cephei)

“Gamma Cephei, aka Errai, a future North Star” (

Story of Callista and Arcus

“Arc to Arcturus”

Arcturus is in Bootes!

“Bo-o-tas” = Bootes

Now “spike to Spica”

  • Both Arcturus and Spica are very bright!

Spica is in Virgo, it’s a clump of wheat that she is holding

Summer Triangle: Vega, Deneb, Altair

  • You can generally see all the stars that in there!

MY COMMENT: Get out binoculars to see even more!

(MY COMMENT: This reminds me of how we did a science night at our Oklahoma School a few years ago, Shelly and I shared some astronomy iPad apps for finding constellations!)

ALSO MY COMMENT: I’ve never heard of “the Summer Triangle” before! I’m excited to learn more and go out to Fairview Park, about 20 minutes from where we live in Charlotte, and where we went to set the Northern Lights a few weeks ago.

Good idea: Assign different students to tell the stories of different stars

Orion Constellation:

  • For some reason Betelgeuse, which is the left shoulder and red, disappears some times 
  • Orion’s belt is considered different things: 3 Kings in Africa , in Spain the 3 Marias
  • Sword of Orion is actually a nebula

App “Sky Map” is one of the tools I use

For Android:

I love the photos in the gallery for different constellations and nebulas

MY COMMENT: “Night Sky” is great on iPhone / for iOS:

Great stories on Constellation Guide (mythology)

Great interactive star charts on “Heavens Above”

  • By brightness you can see which stars will show up first!

MY COMMENT: This inspires me to try and capture some TIME LAPSE images of star trails!!! I’m wondering how I can capture some with my iPhone camera…

Remember to look for the International Space Station (ISS):

GREAT video to use each month: “What’s UP” from NASA’s JPL:

MY COMMENT: I’m going to use this for a WONDER LINK this year!

Green laser pointers are like $10 on Amazon

MY COMMENT: I’ve read that the cheapest lasers may not be very durable, also the rated power can be be inaccurate. I’ve personally owned a couple lasers, I did have trouble with them not lasting very long. This is a $25 model which is designed for a firearm but some reviewers on Amazon report they use successfully for astronomy.

Check out “International Observe the Moon Night!”

You can show students with your laser where Apollo 11 landed!

You don’t need an expensive telescope! Put the word out and ask your parents to bring telescopes!

Also check out the GAVRT program / project!

The GAVRT program teaches K-12 students how to calibrate this 34 meter antenna (known as Deep Space Station-28), collect and distribute science data through the Internet and get excited about radio astronomy. Students collaborate with scientists who are working on the same mission and are recognized as part of the science team. Data collected and analyzed by the students is used by NASA in their studies of the solar system.

Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) – NASA. 30 Apr. 2019,

From another session participation: International Dark Sky Association

From Mark Wagner: Slooh telescope project! (“The Online Telescope Project!”)