So much is happening in the skies!

I love geeking out over science/astronomical happenings, especially with how today’s technology makes it easier to do so.

Last night, I got a text message from NASA, letting me know that the International Space Station would be visible as it made its pass over my house this morning. So my boyfriend and I set our alarm a few minutes earlier than usual and were outside by 5:14 a.m. scanning the skies. He found it first, making its way across the predawn sky in precisely the direction that NASA said it would be heading.

Children have been able to track Santa’s progress around the world since 1955, thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). I remember years ago, kids could call a telephone number to hear a message about where Santa Claus was as the hours of Christmas Eve ticked by. Since 1997, the Santa-tracking effort has also had an Internet presence. Today, you can follow his journey on Facebook and Twitter:

Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.

Every Christmas Eve, thousands of volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe.”

The Mars Rover Curiosity has been sending back historic data and images from the surface of the red planet since it landed there in early August.

Following just a few science-themed websites (and some like-minded geeky people on social media) keeps me more well-informed about various celestial happenings. Super moons, meteor showers, eclipses — these are all things that I love to follow.

Standing in the yard under starlit skies peering into my telescope or watching crescent shaped eclipse shadows filter through the leaves of the trees onto a wall, these are moments that help me put into perspective the vast awesomeness of our universe, realizing that we are such a tiny part of the cycle of life, and science. There is so much more going on out there, beyond the confines of our small, blue planet.

And sharing these events with children is a great way to excite those who might be our nation’s future scientists. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, said this:

I would teach how science works as much as I would teach what science knows. I would assert (given that essentially, everyone will learn to read) that science literacy is the most important kind of literacy they can take into the 21st century. I would undervalue grades based on knowing things and find ways to reward curiosity. In the end, it’s the people who are curious who change the world.”

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