Monday, December 3, 2018

Astronomy for Kids: How to Explore Outer Space... by Bruce Betts, PhD

Mars is in the News!  And if your children have noticed and been talking about it, I highly recommend you check out the new book by Bruce Betts! Now is the time to take this latest event by NASA and encourage study that can help increase or improve their natural interest in outer space. 

This book is not to be mistaken for a young child's introduction. Rather it is created in a text format, meant for ages 7-13 (or Adults who have no background will find it useful) but with interesting star charts, inserts, drawings and explanations that helps lead kids through that world we call outer space... Because of the Mars landing happening so recently, Mars is the best possible section to be included to share what the book provides.

The format as we begin to study stars, planets, and more is simple to use. First a graphic, a picture of a planet, such as Mars, is shown. Thereafter a brief statement about the planet (or star) is provided. I enjoyed the little tidbit of information, That's so Cool!, which highlights something interesting and to be remembered as something not necessarily known. For Mars, for instance, did you know that the largest mountain in the Solar System is on Mars? The volcano, Olympus Mons, is more than twice as high as Mount Everest, and expands as big as the state of Arizona! 

I had to laugh when I saw that, included, was a "selfie" of the Curiosity rover on the surface, standing next to a sand dune (2016)...

Betts starts his book immediately with instruction, even on the cover, he shares you may want to use binoculars, a telescope...or most important, just your eyes! In the Introduction, he proceeds to share what the book contains, and closes with "Now I enjoy sharing the wonder and excitement of the weird and cool things in out space..." If you enter his name into a search engine, you will find many different sites on which he appears, and he also teaches an online college course, so no matter at what level you begin and how long you wish to continue studying the stars...this author can provide support! Cool, right?!

As readers begin, Betts shares about 30 sites that can be seen by the eye, and suggests that we start with the Northern Sky, specifically, The Big Dipper!

Beginning with the location of the Big Dipper, we proceed through the various stars and learn specifics, but also the relationship to those also identified in the book. 

For instance, beginning with the well know Big Dipper, the book will show how a point there can lead to Cassiopeia, a constellation that also rotates around the North Star. Telling us about the mythological story was fun to learn about. It seems  Cassiopeia was a queen who was made into a constellation by the sea god Poseidon for claiming she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs. If you stop to think about this tidbit of information, you will realize just how many thousands of years that humans have wondered and looked to the stars to learn and enjoy the great unknown...

The book is organized by "skys" so that location and seasons becomes a basis upon which to begin the individual study to be made. There is also an extensive, easy-to-use index by which the book can help a student when they wish to complete an assignment, for instance, on the Moon, which we have also explored... The little cool tidbit I learned was that the same side of the moon always faces Earth. But did you also know that the Moon is the only other planet where Earthlings have walked. LOL... I just thought I'd mention that since our movies take us to other planets that don't even exist...isn't it fun to know what our reality actually is and dream of some day when we just might reach another planet?!  

The book itself is well made and can withstand much use inside and outside as the reader explores the way they wish... I think I would go with a telescope for myself. The writing is excellent and the book easily used and the material can be found immediately. It is a definite recommended addition to your home library in my opinion... Do check it out!


Dr. Bruce Betts is a planetary scientist who loves teaching people about planets, space, and the night sky in fun and entertaining ways. He has lots of college degrees, lots of big dogs, and two sons. Read on to learn more about his background and where to find him on social media and the Internet. 

Bruce Betts is a planetary scientist, science communicator and educator, and manager. He is the Chief Scientist and LightSail Program Manager for the world's largest space interest group, The Planetary Society. He has a B.S. (Physics and Math) and an M.S. (Applied Physics, emphasis Astronomy) from Stanford and a Ph.D. (Planetary Science, minor in Geology) from Caltech. His research there and at the Planetary Science Institute focused on infrared studies of planetary surfaces. He managed planetary instrument development programs at NASA Headquarters. 

At The Planetary Society, he heads the Science and Technology and the Education and Outreach programs. He has managed several flight hardware projects, and led additional science and outreach projects. He is the Program Manager for the Society's largest project: the LightSail solar sail spacecraft. He regularly writes for the member magazine The Planetary Report and his blog on His popular twitter feed @RandomSpaceFact and Facebook page (Dr. Bruce Betts) provides easy night sky astronomy and random space facts. His Random Space Fact video series ( provides space facts mixed with humor and graphics. He also hosts the "What's Up?" feature on the weekly Planetary Radio ( show (100+ stations, XM/Sirius, podcast). He has been a guest expert on History Channel's The Universe, is a frequent contributor to Professional Pilot magazine, and has appeared frequently in TV, print, web media, and public lectures. Dr. Betts is an Adjunct Professor with California State University Dominguez Hills and his Introduction to Astronomy and Planetary Science class, featuring lots of pretty space pictures, is available free online ( He is an Alumnus Senior Scientist with Planetary Science Institute. His website is

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