Solar Eclipse 2017: Read All About in DIG!

ON AUGUST 21, 2017… a most magnificent sight is coming right to our backyard. Many call it the Great American Eclipse because so many millions of Americans will be able to easily access the 70-mile-wide path of the total solar eclipse. Another cool fact is that this eclipse will be the very first, since the founding of our nation in 1776, to visit only the United States and no other country on Earth!


When the proposal for a DIG issue focusing on the solar eclipse of August 2017 came across my desk, I had to really think about it.  It sounded interesting, but it was far from DIG’s usual purview of world history and archaeology. But, I thought, what if I focused on eclipses through history—what the records tell us, who learned to predict them, how they learned to predict them and so on. Before I decided “yes” or “no,” I had to wrap my head around the possibility of such a theme, because such a one had never ever occurred to me. I had done the zodiac, talked about the Chaldaeans, but never an issue with a theme that fit so definitely in the science-astronomy box.


So, off I went into the unknown, researching eclipses, astronomy, scientific inventions back millennia. There was so much—and it was fascinating. Yes, DIG was interested! It would be a great way to link history and archaeology and science! But, then, I thought—archaeology and eclipses, how can I link those two fields. The reply came almost immediately—through the astronomer Copernicus and the astronomer Tycho Brahe! But, I don’t want to give away all—let me just say, that both stories offer positive proof that archaeology and astronomy—eclipses, in this case—do sometimes bring otherwise distant fields together.


I hope you have as much fun reading the January issue of DIG as I had working on it—and wherever you may be on August 21, 2017 to observe the total solar eclipse, I hope you have your copy of DIG with you!

Get Ready to See the Super Moon

On November 14th, anyone with a clear evening sky will be lucky enough to see a “super moon”. A super moon happens when the moon is full at its closest point to the Earth, and this month’s super moon is the closest the moon has been to Earth since 1948. According to, the moon will look 15 percent bigger and 16 percent brighter than a typical full moon. To get the best super moon effect, experts recommend that you view the moon when it is near the horizon. This is because of a well-known effect called the “moon illusion,” which means the moon looks larger when viewers can easily compare it to nearby buildings.


For even more about moons, read the attached free article, “Making Moons” from ASK Magazine. You can always count on ASK to answer the questions your kids have been ASKing about topics in the arts and sciences, including why animals sleep, what are tides, and how the solar system formed. Full of fun facts, informative scientific articles, and hands-on activities, ASK Magazine launches curious kids into hours of happy exploration. To make sure you don’t miss a single issue, but sure to subscribe to ASK today.

ASK Magazine Looks at the Science of Sugar

By Tyler Thompson, Licensing Manager, Cricket Media


Sugar. Maybe you’ve heard of it. When Cricket Media receive licensing requests from State Education departments, they specify they can only license articles that do not mention sugar, sweets, candy, ice cream, or cookies. Several states have passed legislature banning the sale of soda and sugary drinks in public schools, and lawmakers New York and in California are trying to emblazon sodas with a message that looks very similar to one you see on cigarette packages and alcohol bottles.


In this month’s issue of ASK, “Why Do We Love Sweets?”, Editor Liz Huyck takes a completely different approach. Since you can’t really keep children away from sugar, why not tell them everything there is to know about it? Rather than demonize sugar, why not educate children on how it works and we need it? The issue covers everything from the history of sugarcane (people have had a sweet tooth for at least 10,000 years), Napoleon Bonaparte’s sugar dilemma, the low-down on artificial sweeteners (yikes), a child with diabetes separates diabetic fact from fiction, sugar addicts in the animal kingdom (hummingbirds, yo), when it’s okay to eat glass, and a virtual tour through a candy cane factory complete with delicious photos.


ASK even breaks down the molecular structure of sugar and shows how your body converts it into energy in a fascinating section called “Sneaky Sugar.”


Check this out:

“By 2018, food makers will have to tell you have much sugar they add to your snack. Even if you read the list of ingredients, it can be hard to spot! Some can by sneaky. See if you can find any of these in your kitchen or lunch box—they’re all different names for sugar:


  • Agave
  • Barley malt
  • Cane juice
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit nectar
  • Glucose
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Nectar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle”



Enjoy the attached article “I [heart] Sugar” as our free gift to you. We hope it will give you a taste of how sweet an issue of ASK can be.


For more in-depth looks at topics your kids are ASKing about, be sure to subscribe to ASK.

Resources to Inspire a Future Astronomer

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! (No.) It’s a plane! (No.) It’s a planet? (Possibly…let’s find out.)


Asteroids, super moons, eclipses, and satellites have all been in the news lately and this may have prompted your junior astronomer to make statements like the ones above. If you are a layperson when it comes to astronomy, the difference between a planet and a star, a constellation and a star cluster, Venus and Mars may be as unclear as the difference between a crocodile and alligator or a stalagmite and a stalactite: there is a difference for sure, but it sure isn’t obvious.


Discover the Wonder of Astronomy


Luckily, there are resources out there to help you help your child discover the wonder of astronomy. Here are a few simple ways to make stargazing even more enjoyable for everyone in your family:


Google Sky is a free app available for both Android and iPhone users that turns your phone or iPad into your own personal planetarium. Just download the app, point your mobile phone at the sky, and Sky Map will name everything in the vicinity. You’ll see planets, stars, constellations…you name it. No more guessing if those three stars in a row are part of the Big Dipper; now you’ll know for sure. should be your go-to source for information on satellites, rocket launches, meteor showers, and new discoveries from the very edges of space. Plus, NASA has amazing photos and lots of info made especially for kids, including a NASA Kids’ Club with activities and games for kids of all ages.


Discovery Kids has a library of videos answering questions such as “Is the sun actually yellow?” and “What Happens Inside a Black Hole?” You know, the kinds of things kids actually ask and we parents have no ideas about.


Ask Cover - AstronomyAstronomy magazines for kids are a great way to get up-to-date information delivered straight to your mailbox. Unlike books, which can easily be made obsolete by new discoveries, monthly magazines are better able to update their content, giving young readers timely and relevant information about upcoming celestial events. For example, look for upcoming issues of DIG INTO HISTORY, CLICK, and ASK from the Cricket Media family of magazines related to the first total solar eclipse that passes part of the the US (Hawaii)  in 26 years and the first to go coast-to-coast in 99 years. Subscribe now to make sure you get these informative issues.


The real lesson here is that it doesn’t matter whether you have your own telescope or not, whether you live in a place dark enough to see the Milky Way or a place with so much light pollution that it is hard to make out the moon, whether there is a planetarium around the corner or across the state, today’s technology makes educating future scientists about the wonders of space easy and accessible, leaving even more time for your whole family to just contemplate exactly what might be out there.

Muse: A Science Magazine that Will Excite Your Tween Girl

Tween girls are a breed unto themselves. They are little girls one minute, still playing with dolls, and sophisticated young adults the next, talking about fashion and boys and the latest sensational YouTube videos. In the middle of these two extremes are the authentic young women that they will become.


Science Magazine for Tween GirlsRecently there was an internet article making the rounds that showed the difference between how the media portrays the interests of boys and girls of this age group. Boys are routinely shown how to “explore their future” while girls are told how to be pretty. This disparity has not gone unnoticed by parents and girl-power advocates who decried this issue (apparently Girls Life often does take a more well-rounded approach to their audience, and this particular issue was an outlier) and called for our girls to be treated to the same forward-thinking, future-building, you-can-be-whatever-you-want-to be respect as boys.


Luckily there are magazines for both girls and boys that understand the wants and needs of this particular age group and works to provide kids with the tools they need to be successful in whatever the future holds for them. Go ahead and do a google search for “Science Magazines for Girls” or “Science magazines for tweens” and you will come up with a few options. One such magazine is Cricket Media’s own MUSE, which is billed as the science and arts magazine for kids that’s spot on with the facts and off the wall with the jokes. Inside Muse you’ll find articles that include profiles of working scientists (many of them women), in-depth profiles of science topics written in a voice that kids can relate to, and plenty of brainy fun, including a new comic series called Parallel U that is quickly gaining a dedicated audience.


Kids who can’t help wondering whether video games really kill their brain cells, or what a gentleman ladybug is called, will find the answers in Muse, in articles written by award-winning authors and accompanied by high-quality illustration and photography. But don’t take our word for it. Try a free digital issue yourself.

Perusing the Perseid Meteor Shower With Your Kids

Every year about this time, we residents of the planet Earth get a visit from the Perseid Meteor Shower, a light up the sky event caused when the pieces of comet debris from a comet named Swift-Tuttle heat up and burn out (at a rate of 37 miles per second!) as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.


This year, however, the sky show is predicted to be better than ever with double the amount of meteors visible in the night sky. That’s why science geeks everywhere are encouraging people of all ages to get outside in the predawn hours and discover the wonderful world of space. To help you prepare for your late-night excursion, here is a roundup of articles from around the web about how and where to get the best view.


  • com: staff writer Sarah Lewin suggests getting away from the light to a place where you can take in as much sky as possible. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust fully to the dark so make sure you leave plenty of time for your late night excursion.
  • gov: Too lazy to go outside in the middle of the night? Or maybe your sky is overcast tonight? No worries, NASA will be providing a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower overnight on August 11-12 and August 12-13, beginning at 10pm EDT.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: Want a plain-spoken way to get a background of what you are looking at when you gaze up to the sky? Bill Nye is here to help. Check out his video about comets and meteors before you head out to your viewing site.
  • Finally, since it is also Throwback Thursday, I’m going to throw you back 17 years with the article below, which originally appeared in the October 1999 issue of Odyssey magazine. This article will give your emerging space enthusiasts some history of how comets and meteors were discovered as well as some kid-friendly language about what comets and meteors are. If your child enjoys this article, you can support his/her love of science by subscribing to one of Cricket Media’s discovery magazines, including MUSE, the science and arts magazine for kids 9 to 14 that’s spot on with the facts and off the wall with the jokes or ASK, the perfect choice for curious kids ages 6 to 9.

November 17, 1966: Night of Meteors
by William Sheehan

Night of Meteors - Odyssey 2009

If you do head outside and take some pictures, we’d love to see them. Be sure to use the hashtag #cricketmedia to share photos of your sky watching party. We won’t even laugh at how messy everyone’s hair is.

Welcome Home, Astro-twin Scott Kelly

Everyone at Ask is very excited to celebrate the safe return of twin astronaut Scott Kelly after a record-setting 340 days in space! We’re also, frankly, relieved—since we’re featuring Scott and his twin brother Mark, also an astronaut, in our March issue, all about Twins. When we planned the story, we knew Scott was due to return in March. But we also knew that by the time he actually landed, the magazine would be done, printed, and in the hands of readers. So if anything changed, it would be too late to adjust our story. But all went smoothly and Scott and his Russian companion Mikhail Kornienko are home safe. Hooray!


During his year in space, Scott did many fun experiments—and he was himself an experiment, the first ever astronaut twin study. Scientists and NASA are keen to know—how will spending a year in space change Scott compared to his identical twin astronaut brother who stayed on earth? Over the past year, Scott and Mark have been intensively monitored, tested, sampled, and compared. NASA is hopeful that having an identical twin control will help them build a better picture of how space living affects health—something that is often difficult to pin down amid the naturally different health and genetics of different astronauts.


scott kellyDNA is what makes the Kelly’s such interesting research subjects, and it’s also what got us into Twins. Kids are very curious about DNA. They hear the word all over, connected somehow to solving crimes, and evolution, and who you are, and curing diseases. But what is it, exactly? I hope we’ve managed to explain it at least a little in this issue. It’s what makes identical twins identical, and also (in epigenetic variations) what makes identical twins always a bit different. Researchers expect that after a year of intense stress, limited food, and extra radiation, Scott’s DNA will be even more different from Mark’s than it was when he went up. We should know more when all the analysis is done, in about 9 months from now. Stay tuned!


But in the meantime, one thing I’ve learned from watching Scott’s video updates and amazing photos (he is a great photographer!) is that if there’s one place I’d rather be than editing Ask, it’s up in space watching the aurora from 250 miles up.


Ask Magazine March 2016March 2016 of Ask Magazine

The amazing astronauts and twin brothers, Scott and Mark Kelly, are featured in the March issue of Ask Magazine.  


Liz Huyuk is the editor of Ask Magazine.

Invent It Challenge Week 4: Create It!

The 2016 Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge is finally off and running. This year, kids ages 5 to 21 need to identify a real-world health problem and come up with a solution to the problem. Each entry must follow the seven step invention process spelled out by our partner, the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab. For the next 7 weeks or so, we are going to be highlighting each step in the Spark!Lab’s seven-step process with the goal of helping parents help their children make the most of this learning opportunity and achieve optimum results.


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It’s time for your child to take the idea they have developed, researched, and sketched and create a prototype of their life-changing invention.


While this may be one of the most exciting parts of the invention process, it is also likely to be filled with setbacks, frustrations, and changes to the plan. In engineering, things often don’t work the way you think they will. To help your child navigate through this step, here are some things your young inventor should keep in mind throughout the Create It process:


1- Start with materials you already have around the house.


When you are about to start creating something new it can be tempting to run out to the hardware or craft store and buy a slew of new supplies and materials. In general,however, it is better to help your child find materials you already have around the house for this first attempt at creating their project. Ask them to think of materials that are approximately the same size or shape as what they may eventually use. For example, if your child’s project needs PVC pipe, approximate it with the tubing from wrapping paper or paper towels. If your child needs some sort of fabric, see if anyone has an old towel or sheet that can be cut up. Using recyclable materials will save you money and give your child a chance to think about the best materials to use for their finished product.


2- Keep the design simple


Remind your child not to get too fancy with this first try at engineering their invention. He or she doesn’t need decorations or frills. This attempt should be the bare bones type of engineering where just getting the pieces to fit together into an approximation of the final is the goal.


3- Don’t try to get it perfect the first time


See tip #2. It doesn’t need to be even close to perfect this first time. In fact, remind your child that failure is part of the invention process. So is trying again. If your child is getting upset that things aren’t going as planned have them take a break and come back to it later.


4- Document your progress as you go.


The Invent It judges want to see each step of the invention process so have someone take pictures of your child’s attempts to get their project through this phase. If your child is struggling, having pictures of what is going wrong can also be a good way to review what is and what isn’t working. Reviewing the pictures might also give the inventor a new way of seeing the project or a new idea to fix a piece that isn’t going as planned.


5- Think outside the lines.


Yes, your child drew a diagram in a certain way, but if the actual building isn’t quite living up to the drawing, it’s time for your child to reimagine how the project might work. Have the inventor make a new drawing accounting for the challenges they’ve discovered and add that drawing to your documentation. This is part of the documentation process that the judges love to see.


After your child gets their first prototype to completion, take some time to celebrate their initiative and their creativity. He or she is a maker in the truest sense of the word and we can’t wait to see the amazing inventions they are creating.


Missed learning about the previous Invent It! 2016 steps?