Hands-On Astronomy with Cedars Montessori Elementary

Modeling precession of Earth's axis

It was a completely clear night last night for the second Cedars Montessori Elementary astronomy class. We go to know our telescopes and then viewed Jupiter, the crescent Moon, Venus and the Orion nebula.  We heard a Navajo star lore story about how the stars and constellations came to be. We finished the night off with learning how to use a star chart to find then spring constellations.  It was a great night and when it was time to end, it was hard to stop stargazing and leave!






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City of Sunset Valley Public Star Party

UnknownWhat a joy it was to be back for the 4th time with the City of Sunset Valley at their public star party last night and what a gorgeous night we had! We focused on Jupiter, the Moon  and Venus.  We saw two of the 4 Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter. I had the chance to tell some native star lore about the Pleiades and Orion constellations and take some visitors on a solar system walk. As always, their staff was so eager to help and learn.  Thank you lovely folks for a fun-filled and educational evening.

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Hands-on Astronomy Class with Cedars Montessori Elementary

Elementary students from Cedars Montessori met me under the stars and got to know a Dobsonian mount telescope before we headed outside to see Mars in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter and it’s Galilean moons.  Even though the clouds started to creep in on us, we still got to see the Orion nebula and of course our heavily cratered Moon. The students were intrigued by my green laser pointer! Below you can see me modeling the earth’s axis and it’s precession. To find out why this is so important to us here on Earth, sign up for Hands-on Astronomy and immerse yourself in the starry sky above.


Thank you to Steve Wolf who took all of these beautiful photos of our class!

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New Hands-on Astronomy Classes Starting February 28th

starry sky austin logoAre you curious about the night sky? Do you want to learn how to use a telescope and gain confidence in finding planets, stars and constellations? Join me, Amy Jackson, for night time stargazing and learn about our night sky and how to use a telescope.

Each class will incorporate one of the following topics: The Scale of the Solar System, Why the North star won’t always be our North star, The Reason for the Seasons, What Causes the Moon phases and Eclipses?

To learn more and register for a class visit the Hands-on Astronomy Class page.


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Viewing Sunspots with Cedars Montessori Upper Elementary

kalen and piper with eclipse viewing glasses and the sun funnel

I had the chance to substitute last week at my children’s school and just couldn’t help but bring my sun funnel. We looked at sunspots and learned about what causes the aurora borealis and the effects that CME’s have on our planet. It was so fun to be back at it again since my time off this past year.  Needless to say, I’m inspired to get back into teaching about any spacey =)  This photo shows my sun funnel and the transit of Venus back in 2012.

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Science is spiritual


The “Cosmos” series with host Neil deGrasse Tyson has quickly become much anticipated in our home. We watched the second episode of “Cosmos” with our 7 year old, 5 year old and 1 week old all cuddled up on couch cushions in front of the TV. While the movie “Frozen” has been the main buzz around our home lately with the girls twirling and singing the show tunes, a quiet calm comes over my 7 year old when she asks me, “when is ‘Cosmics’ coming on TV again Mom? I can’t wait for that… space and time! I love that stuff!”


The beauty in her anticipation of the show confirms our natural human curiosity and necessity to understand our place in the universe.  I have found in my many years of teaching a wide range of ages that almost everyone is memorized or awe-inspired by the beauty of the cosmos.  We are all natural-born scientists, living together on this planet Earth, or “the pale blue dot” according to Carl Sagan, in search of answers to our questions.  It is our natural state of being.  Just watch a baby or any small child.  She is curious about her world and immediately begins to absorb information from the world around her.  Her human form serves as her scientific tool for understanding the world.  Through her senses of vision, sound, touch, smell, taste and emotion she develops her “absorbent mind”, as Dr. Maria Montessori called it, readily soaking in all the information from her environment. This is our natural human way of existence.  What continues to motivate us on this quest of knowledge as we grow into adults is completely spiritual. Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Why are we here? How did all this life around us come about? What is my place in the universe? These are the Big questions that continually motivate us as natural scientists to observe the life around us and search for answers.  Ours is a quest for knowledge. We want to find our place in the universe.

Science was developed as a way to find the fundamental truths of the world around us without misunderstanding them through bias. “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it,” says Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson. Those who criticize science and argue that it is anti-god or atheist are people who misunderstand that searching for the truth is the ultimate spiritual quest. They have forgotten where they came from; the same place we all emanate from, the belly of the cosmos. No one is playing god here.  Instead, we want to know god.  My hope for the new “Cosmos” series is that it sparks conversations about the Big questions and opens closed eyes to the beauty that abounds in our universe and puts us in our respective place within it.  Anyone who is human needs to watch it.

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A short break

Lots of good changes are afoot these days.  My family and I have moved to Oak Hill and are loving our new location and place.  Darker skies out here :)   Also, we are expecting our third girl in March!  As my belly grows, by ability to lift my big ole 10″ Dobsonian in and out of my car (along with all the other paraphernalia that I bring with me!) is decreasing.  I’ve decided to take a break until we get our family in the new flow of making room for a third member.  We are looking forward to calling ourselves “The Jackson 5”.  We can’t wait to take that one to restaurant wait lists 😉  Thank you for your interest if you have inquired about classes or birthday parties this Fall.  I will hopefully be “back on my feet” by next Fall or maybe next Spring.  Till then, remember to look up!  Lots of exciting things to see as the seasons change around us.



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Help me inspire the next generation of space explorers! Vote for me to go to Space!

Send Amy to Space! from Jonathan Jackson on Vimeo.


By simply clicking on this link: voteforamy you can help me make this lifelong dream a reality!!!!


Why does space matter? Why should we put our hard earned money into something that seems so intangible when there are so many other issues that need our attention here on Earth?

I get this question a lot since I work with educating the public about space. I thought back on what got me excited about space and astronomy and why I eventually decided to study physics in college.  It all pointed back to an experience I had on a field trip to NASA when I was in the third grade.  As I followed my fellow classmates around rooms filled with old mock ups of Apollo mission space crafts, old astronaut suits kept behind glass, and small artifacts left over from past missions, I stumbled across a book filled with signatures of people who wanted to be astronauts.  I will never forget adding my signature to that book.  In eighth grade I went to Space Camp. I chose to study physics and astronomy in college. Two years ago, I applied to the educator astronaut program at NASA.  Now I educate children and the public about space and astronomy.

Space is the final frontier.  It holds the biggest questions that have yet to be answered.  How did the universe begin? How will it end? What makes up the majority of the mass of the universe? Space represents hope and inspires us to dream. It allows us to ask questions and inspires us to want to find the answers. What do we have left if we don’t allow ourselves to dream? Last September on the official first day of fall, I walked my first grader to school. As she was putting away her bicycle, I heard kids shouting.  I thought someone fell off their bicycle or there was a car accident.  Lo and behold, everyone started to point up to the sky in excitement.  It was the space shuttle flying over her school!  Parents and kids stopped and watched in awe.  The fact that the adventure of going to space inspires young and old is enough proof for me that looking up to the sky and dreaming of what can be allows for great things to take place down here on Earth.

Help me to inspire our future generation of space explorers by voting for me to win a chance to go to space in the Axe Apollo Space Academy Competition.  By simply clicking on this link: voteforamy you can help me make this lifelong dream a reality!!!!


Attention all schools and interested parties!

I will facilitate an inspiring astronomy program for your students in exchange for your vote for me to go to Space!  (Any donations to the Austin Planetarium’s efforts to build a planetarium here in the great city of Austin will be greatly appreciated. Help them to inspire our future generation of space explorers! Click here to donate: donate.) To see available programs that I can bring click here: programs. Contact me if you are interested:


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The Full Moon, Jupiter and Cadette Girl Scouts

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What a beautiful night last night!  This special groups of Girl Scouts you see in the photos above have been together since they were in first grade!  We met at Brushy Creek Lake Park: a great location for an unobstructed view of the night sky. They definitely earned their Night Owl Badge last night!  They braved the cold and it was worth it.  We saw the beautiful full moon and Jupiter was right above it!  We got very close to a deer on our night hike while we were practicing our fox walk and heard some nocturnal animals up and about.  We shared personal experiences about what it is like to work at night and learned about people who work the night shift.  Thank you girls for a great evening!

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