If the weather cooperates and we get some clear nights, take your family outside to star gaze. The Perseid Meteor Shower is occurring now, with the peak display on the morning of August 12. To glimpse a shooting star, go outside, turn off outside (and some inside) lights, and just randomly scan the sky. Be patient, and pretty soon you'll see one. Don't forget to make a wish. Of course, your odds of seeing one increase as we get closer to August 12. You can find information about the Perseides at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseids .
When you go outside, bring along a portable star chart to help you identify the constellations. Cover a flashlight with a piece of red cellophane, thin cloth, or tissue paper to help you see the chart and still keep your eyes adjusted to the limited light. Even though it looks old and dated, Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey, the creator of Curious George, is a fabulous book for learning about the stars. I also recommend One Small Square: the Night Sky by Donald. M. Silver.
A fun family activity is to particpate in the "Eye on the Sky Stargazing Party" Sunday night, August 10. Bring a radio outside with you, tune into VPR, and listen. Find out all about it at http://www.vpr.net/community/fun_stuff/stargazing_party/ . There's even a link to an interactive star chart at the site.
Want to know more about comets and meteors? Check out Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids by Seymour Simon. Collision Course: Cosmic Impacts and Life on Earth by Fred Bortz explains what happens when a shooting star hits the earth--a sometimes frightening scenario. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer takes the scenario even further with a story about the consequence of a meteor hitting the moon, knocking it closer to earth. Though fascinating, I think I will just stick with the notion that shooting stars are made to be wished upon.