Here are a few ideas to get you and your little ones going with the products available on Arden Anne. Our ideas are meant to inspire play, but also to educate in the process.
First, explain to you child that for years, most scientists figured that Jupiter’s moon Io didn’t have a lot going on. Many moons are ‘geologically dead.’ That means that they don’t have things like earthquakes, newly forming mountains, or volcanoes. But it turns out, these scientists were dead wrong about Io! (At this point, your child should get interested in why those scientists were so dead wrong!)
Continue explaining that NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft took the first close up pictures of Io in 1979 - that's more than 30 years ago! The pictures showed a massive plume erupting from its surface into space. Not only did Io have volcanoes—they were active! This was the first time an erupting volcano had been found anywhere besides Earth. There are volcanoes all around our solar system. But only a few places besides Earth—like some of the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune—have active ones today.
Now, pretend that your rocket toy is NASA's Voyager 1 and use it to explore our solar system’s many volcanoes. Land on an active volcano and watch it erupt, but not before your little explorer has time to climb back on board his rocket ship to make a clean get-away.
Black Hole Rescue!
First, explain that black holes are not really holes at all. They are the opposite of empty! Black holes have the most matter stuffed into the least space of any objects in the universe. Because they are so compact, they have very strong gravity.
Here on Earth, gravity is what makes things fall down, rather than just float away, when you let go of them. Gravity is what you are measuring when you step on a scale to weigh yourself. Your weight is the amount of force that Earth's gravity exerts on you. The more matter your body contains, the more you weigh. Likewise, the more matter an object has, the stronger its gravity.
The gravity of a black hole is so strong that not even light can escape! Even if a bright star is shining right next to a black hole, you cannot see the black hole. Instead of reflecting the light as other objects do, the black hole just swallows the starlight forever. Any matter that gets too close to a black hole gets swallowed up as well.
Now, find an object to represent a black hole. It can be a soccer ball, or anything you like. Pretend that the gravity of that "black hole" is so strong, it's sucking the entire toy into it. Try to make a daring escape and your little one will be proud to have escaped the incredible pull of a ... soccer ball!
Discovering the Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights)
Here is the true story of how scientists discovered the Northern Lights. Read it to your child and then use your ceiling lights or a desk lamp pointed at the ceiling to re-create your own indoor Aurora Borealis. Get creative and use some colored paper to create different colored lights and let your little one fly the rocket ship around the room to explore.
It is a sticky August night in Florida. Typical, except for one thing. Bright red and green curtains of light dance in the sky. Is the swamp on fire?
No. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, are lighting up the sky. It is 1859, and few people in Florida have ever seen an aurora. They are amazed and frightened.
A few days later, on September 1, English astronomer Richard C. Carrington is studying a group of sunspots (through dark filters that protect his eyes, of course). Around 11:00 AM, he sees a sudden flash of intense white light from the area of the sunspots. Seventeen hours later, the night sky in North America and as far south as Panama in Central America lights up like daytime. It is another wave of even brighter Auroras. People read newspapers by the light. Gold miners in the Rocky Mountains wake up and make coffee, bacon and eggs at 1:00 AM, thinking the Sun has risen on a cloudy morning.
But stranger things than these are happening.
Instruments that measure changes in Earth's magnetism are acting crazy, their needles stuck against the pins at the highest end of the scale. Spikes of electricity surge into the world's telegraph systems, and no one can send a message.
What is going on?
In 1859, even scientists didn't understand what caused auroras and the electrical and magnetic disturbances that went with them. Eventually they figured out that auroras are caused by violent events on the Sun. These solar storms can blast out huge clouds of electrified gas and dust at up to 2 million miles per hour. If this high-energy blast of particles reaches Earth, it can temporarily distort and disrupt Earth's magnetic field.