Catching Up On Celestial Matters

A favorite book

A favorite book

One of the smartest decisions I’ve made was to enroll at UCLA. That was quickly followed by a not-so-bright decision.

I always have loved stargazing, planetariums and, yes, space ice cream, so it seemed a natural choice to enroll in an astronomy class my freshman year. The course description sounded interesting. Astronomy 2A: A study of Planets and Stars. Astronomy 2B: Galaxies and Cosmology. Perfect, I thought.

I saw it as a great opportunity to learn more about something I already enjoyed and check off one of the science requirements to graduate.

Well, that was the problem. It was only checking off one requirement, and to get credit, you had to complete a pair of courses. Turns out Astronomy 2A was a lot different than I anticipated, and for all you other Hawaii Bruins, let’s just say I preferred spending my time on north campus, not south campus.

Long story short, instead of jumping right into Astronomy 2B, I put it off until my final quarter senior year. Essentially, it was the only thing standing between me and my diploma. I clearly didn’t remember what I learned in Astronomy 2A, so I had to dig deep to pass this class.

The reason I bring this up now is because I’ve been reading my children a lot of bedtime stories, and many of them involve space exploration. It takes me back to my UCLA astronomy days because I feel like I’m being quizzed.

A favorite that’s now in our regular rotation is the Dr. Seuss book There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System. I love the rhymes and cute illustrations to teach kids the names of the planets.

But I have to forget what I learned in college (as if I actually remember anything from that long ago anyway!) and remind myself there are only eight planets now.

Remember, Pluto got the boot in 2006, when it was downgraded to a dwarf planet. It regained some status when it was later upgraded to a plutoid. Planet, plutoid, dwarf planet – what’s the difference?

OK, that jogged my memory. Things start coming back to me … slowly. After all, my college course feels lightyears away.

OK, solar system revised. Not nine planets anymore, eight. Got it.

But the questions start flying. Hey, what happened to Pluto? Mommy, why is Mercury gray? Why don’t we feel dizzy if we’re spinning all the time on Earth?

Wow, how in the world do I answer these questions?

In a flash, I get a flashback and flash forward. Suddenly, I envision all of the future questions I will have to field as my son progresses in grade levels.

Uh oh. Just when I thought I was done with homework. Looks like I’ll be hitting the books all over again just to pass the parent test.