Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Jupiter's Family Secrets

Planet Party


In this 30-minute activity children ages 7 and up and their families go outside on a clear evening and view the sky to see the planets for themselves. Using sky charts and other resources, and possibly in partnership with a local astronomical society, children navigate the night sky and view planets with the naked eye and binoculars or telescopes.

This outdoor night viewing can be combined with the indoor Jupiter's Family Secrets activities to create a family event!

What's the Point?


Facility needs:

For each group of approximately 20 visitors:

For each child:

For the facilitator:



1. Invite the children and their families to line up in front of the different telescopes.

Provide some information about current explorations: The MESSENGER spacecraft, launched in 2004, arrived at Mercury in 2011; MESSENGER had several flybys of other planets to help it slow down so that it was able to go into orbit around Mercury. New Horizons, launched in 2006, is expected to reach the dwarf planet Pluto at the "other end" of our solar system in 2015! Due to a gravitational assist from Jupiter, New Horizon's trip has been shortened by three years. In 2016, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter. Juno launched in 2011, and like MESSENGER, it will have a flyby that slings it past Earth (in 2013) on its way to the giant planet.

2. Ask the children to describe what they see:

3. Invite the children to use the pencils or crayons to record their evening's discoveries in their journals.


If possible, build on the children's knowledge by offering them another Jupiter's Family Secrets activity indoors in conjunction with the viewing or as a separate, future event. Invite everyone to return for the next activity, Jiggly Jupiter to create a model of what Jupiter looks like on the inside.

At the beginning of the next children's activity, invite the children to report on what they saw.Did the appearance of the planets surprise them? Which object was their favorite, and why?