This time last year, my daughter and I embarked on an astronomical adventure: star-gazing with the Halifax Young Naturalists Club! We discovered that a starry night is also a chilly night…and that the moon looks magical through a telescopic lens.
I had contacted the club earlier in the week by email to book our place on the field trip. Many of the families booked on the trip had already attended a YNC astronomy information session at the Natural History Museum the previous weekend. We hadn’t been able to attend due to prior commitments, but we were still very welcome on the field trip.
Our preparations were simple. First, we crafted a night-friendly head lamp, using some electrical tape and a piece of red acetate. Seeing your way using red light allows you to move around without ruining your night vision.
Next, we bundled up really warmly, and hopped in the car. On the way to Purcell’s Cove, we stopped at Tim Horton’s for some hot chocolate.
York Redoubt is only about 20 minutes’ drive from downtown Halifax, but it’s completely devoid of city light: perfect for star gazing! As our eyes adjusted, I spoke to some other families. Some, like us, were new to the Young Naturalists Club. Others were long-timers. One Mom said her sons have been attending information sessions and field trips for the past 7 years! She said that the club had inspired her kids to become more interested in the sciences at school.
The Young Naturalists Club is FREE nature club geared toward youth and their families. Their programs run from September through June. They meet from 10:30am to 12:00pm on the 3rd Saturday of each month for a presentation at the Museum of Natural History, and then on the 4th Sunday of each month from 1:00pm to 3:00pm at various locations in HRM for field trips.
After a short introduction by astronomer Paul Heath, we all took turns looking through the telescope. A professional telescope is very large, and surprisingly lightweight. The wind caused the telescope to sway out of place from time to time, making it difficult to get a good look. But patience prevailed. Everyone, including Mums and Dads had a chance to see the sky through the telescope.
In addition to the telescope, there were several sets of binoculars, which were shared around. It is amazing what you can see through a good set of binoculars. The moon was magical.
We left a little early. Although children of all ages are welcome at YNC events, the programming is geared towards 7 to 12 year olds. At six years old, my daughter didn’t have the patience to stay for an entire hour. When we got back to the car, we realised that in the excitement, we had forgotten to drink our hot chocolate!
On the way home, we sipped well-deserved “lukewarm chocolate”, with fond memories of a wonderful starry night.
Would you like to see the stars at York Redoubt? The Young Naturalists Club is going star-gazing again on Friday, January 29th, 2016. Check our listing for details of how to register. Don’t forget your mittens!