Night Exploring for Careful Types

Want to do some night exploration, but are afraid of the dark?

Well, here are some ideas for you.

You can look for moths from inside your house instead of hanging a sheet, just turn on a light in one room of the house and check the screen or glass to see who has come along. Seeing moths form the underside can make them a little harder to identify, you can try to tempt them to turn around by placing a white sheet of paper a few inches from your window, maybe taped to a paint stick for support, so that the light inside shines on it.

 

Watch fireflies out the window.
Often these guys get active before it is fully dark, so you can collect a few in a ventilated container to watch for a short time and then release them. How do they light up? A firefly has two layers in it's abdomen, one layer is a reflector to make the light brighter and the other layer contains two chemicals: luciferin and luciferase. When they combine with oxygen, they give off light.

To get some idea of why fireflies are only around in the warmer months, grab 2 glowsticks and 2 clear glasses of water, one hot and one with ice. Activate the glow sticks and when they are both going strong, submerge them one in each glass. What happened? Even though the chemicals used to make the glowsticks work are different than the chemicals in a firefly, they both work in similar ways.

Time a firefly flashes on a cooler night and compare it with a hotter night. Did your experiment agree with your observations?

Make your own night sky.
You can use glow-in-the-dark stickers or paint and a chart to cover your ceiling in the night stars, or use a chart and a sheet of dark construction paper and poke holes in it and hold it up to the light.

A fun way to do a night sky requires a few items, but your 'star cave' will be worth the work. Get a big box fan like you use in a window. Next you need a heavy-weight trash bag, the bigger the better. Cut the end out of it to make a tube and attach one end to the (off) fan using strong tape. Turn the fan on and you should have a round tube, lay down in it and start poking holes with various items, safety pins, knitting needles, a sharpened pencil...use your imagination, just be sure an adult is around for that part. Make a constellation of your initials or a smiley face, make a cloud or try your hand at recreating the actual night sky.
When you finish, just fold up your 'sky cave' and whenever you have the urge to stargaze, you can set the whole thing back up.

Make tracks

Or at least collect them! One good way to see who has been in your yard is to try to track them. Make a tracking board using a large sheet of cardboard or plywood covered in about 1/4 inch of flour or dampened sand. Place some 'bait' in the middle of the board, using different foods such as peanut butter, cereal and even cat food. In the morning, head out to see if anyone took the bait and left some tracks for you to investigate. You can just smooth over the tracks to try it again. Move the board around and see if you get different tracks in different parts of the yard or using different foods.

Use a cricket to tell you the temperature:

You need: a chirping cricket, a watch with a second hand.
Count chirps for 15 seconds and add 37 to get the Fahrenheit temperature.
The Science: The warmer it is, the more active insects are. Only male crickets make noise, scrapping their left wing across their right wing cover. The warmer it is, the more often they rub.

Triboluminescence
Okay, so not technically any sort of 'night science' but still fun.
This one is easier than it sounds! Grab a roll of Wintergreen Lifesavers (not sugar-free), a partner and turn out the lights. Chew them with your mouths open. The candy makes a spark as it breaks up. This is the wonder of triboluminescence!

Trap some beetles
You need a wide-mouthed jar, or plastic container like whipped topping comes in. You also need a small shovel.

Dig a hole in a 'likely' area for beetles, grassy spots and leaf litter are both excellent choices. Make the hole big enough for the top of the container to sit level with the ground around and fill the dirt back in right up to the rim.

Choose a night with no chance of rain so your bugs will not drown! Check the trap the next morning, very early (so the birds will not get a free meal). Use a guide book to help ID the various insects and use bug-safe tweezers and not your bare hands to pick up the insects for closer inspection (some beetles bite or pinch). When you have finished looking, set the little guys free under a bush and fill in the hole.

Do some planetary math
What would you weigh?
Earth weight-100 pounds

Mercury 38
Venus 90
Mars 38
Jupiter 254
Saturn 116
Uranus 92
Neptune 119

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