Friday, July 27, 2012

Totally Texas -- An inside eye on the sky

Museum of Nature & Science Planetarium

Dallas Fair Park

1620 First Avenue


The temperature outside was 102 degrees F. when we visited the planetarium of Dallas’s Museum of Nature & Science. And although I’m usually all for getting kids outdoors to play in the sunshine, sometimes there’s too much sunshine for anybody’s good. And if it seemed odd to watch a show about stars in the middle of the afternoon, this was the first summer the boys had even been allowed to stay up late enough to view Fourth of July fireworks. Stars aren’t something they usually see.

We’re particularly lucky that the planetarium is open daily during the summer, through September 3. During the school year it’s reserved for school tours during the week, and only open to the public on weekends.

The planetarium is also one of Fair Park’s most affordable museums, at $3.50 for adults and children over age two. Parking is free year-round, except during the State Fair in the fall.

We reached the planetarium about twenty minutes before show time, along with other refugees from the Texas heat, and took in some other exhibits in building while we waited. The boys had seen enough 3-D movies to enjoy watching Martian rover pictures from the red planet through 3-D glasses and playing games with balls and gravity. My daughter played with the calculators that recalibrated her age and weight according to the gravity and year lengths of different planets.

From the list of planetarium programs, we picked an overview of the seven wonders of the ancient world combined with a list of astronomical wonders, and a viewing of the constellations visible in the Texas night sky, changing according to the seasons. The boys’ favorites? The older picked Canis Minor -- he’s a sucker for dogs. The younger liked Scorpio. For a complete schedule, see

For those old enough to stay up past midnight, the coming month promises some 
of the year’s best views of celestial events outside a planetarium. The Nature & Science site lists all significant recurring meteor showers, but for more detail, see the American Meteor Society’s site,

There’s activity this weekend from Delta Aquariids and Alpha Capricornids. The Perseid shower is also beginning, with the greatest number of meteors -- up to 100 per hour -- visible at its peak August 12-13.

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