Astronomer Meg Thacher ’87 publishes children’s book on sky gazing

“Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses and Constellations” offers children a guide to observing the sky—no telescope required.

Leander Cohen ’22 23 November 2020 Posted In:

Meg Thacher ’87 recently published “Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses and Constellations,” a book for children ages 9-14 that offers a guide to observing the sky—no telescope required.

Meg Thacher ’87
Meg Thacher ’87

A senior laboratory instructor for the Astronomy Department at Smith College and academic director of the Summer Science & Engineering Program for high school girls, Thacher has been writing science articles for children’s magazines since 2013. The book was a natural next step for her.

“I had been thinking of writing a book about astronomy for kids who live in light-polluted areas,” Thacher said. The book is just that, filled with gorgeous photos and drawings of constellations, solar eclipses, the planets, the sun and more. Accompanying these are detailed descriptions to help readers find objects in the sky and delve into the science of what they see.

But boiling down complex astronomical concepts for kids was not an easy task. “When you write for children, you need to be aware of what is developmentally appropriate,” she said. “For example, I can’t talk about atoms when I’m writing for 6-year-olds. Their brains aren’t equipped to understand that all matter is composed of tiny particles that they can’t see!”

"Sky Gazing" book cover

Thacher doesn’t expect her readers to become mini astronomers, but she sees astronomy as a sort of gateway science. “Kids love outer space,” she said, “It can lead to interests in other STEM fields. I’m happy if they gain a better understanding of their world.”

While the bookis mainly concerned with outer space, it is firmly grounded in our world. Star charts help readers spot constellations in both hemispheres and learn about constellation myths from cultures around the world. And each chapter has guides to special events and binocular observing.

Thacher credits her Carleton education in helping her approach the writing process. “At Carleton, I learned to be interested in everything!” she said. “And of course, emeritus professor Joel Weisberg’s astronomy classes are what got me started in astronomy. I developed my love for learning, which I want to pass on to my readers.”

Visit Thacher’s website to learn more and purchase her latest book.

Thacher received her BA in physics from Carleton and her MS in astrophysics from Iowa State University. She also studied astronomy at University of Massachusetts in Amherst.