(Submitted April 01, 1997)
My son is 9 years old and very much interested in stars, planets etc. I have
visited your excellent site made for children. Could you please advise me
on where I can get some videos about learning Astronomy for young children?
In response to your question, I asked a number of colleagues for their
video suggestions, talked to staff at the Public Affairs Office and the
Teacher Resource Center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and searched
the Internet. The results have been quite disappointing. There seem to
be few good widely-available astronomy videos for children.
Sky Publishing (the publishers of the excellent popular magazine "Sky and
Telescope") have a section of their online catalog devoted to
"Start Right in Astronomy". I think it says a lot that the only video
in the section is Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" series - which is still very
good, but was made many years ago. Go to:
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific also has a catalog you might want
to look at. (A colleague recommends
against their video 'Astronomy 101' however, because it contains some basic
errors). Their catalog is available via their website:
Another colleague recommends the Bell Science Series, available from:
Rhino Home Video
2225 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Most videos produced by the BBC or derived from the Nova TV series (often
the same thing) are of very high quality and might be interesting to many
The situation for videos produced by NASA seems particularly embarrassing.
Many excellent videos have been made, but I've just made a number of calls
that suggest that record-keeping has been poor and nobody feels that it is
their responsibility to make them readily accessible. If you are near a
NASA Center, you might want to visit the Teacher Resource Center located
there. TRC staff are often happy to help interested parents. If not, try
calling the Public Affairs Office at the nearest Center.
My guess is that the reason there isn't a lot more good material more
widely available is that two groups necessary to make high quality science
videos - filmmakers and scientists - each thinks the other would be too
much trouble to work with!
The situation for non-video introductory material is much better. If you
go to the Learning Center site associated with Starchild, you will find
many links to other sites on the Internet which may be helpful. (Be aware
however that because it's so easy to build a web site a lot of terrible
material exists elsewhere). The Learning Center URL is:
By far the best resources however are your local bookstore and library.
The average quality of introductory material in print is high and if you
look around enough you are sure to find many good books.
I hope this response has been of some help.
for the "Ask an Astrophysicist" team