Space themed activities for Chicago kids

We’ve all heard that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but for 363 days of the year, that’s not entirely true. Its place in the sky changes throughout the year and it is only at the spring and autumn equinoxes that the sun rises directly due east and sets directly due west. During these two days in Chicago, the sun aligns on our east-west streets, creating our own version of Stonehenge – Chicagohenge – where the rising or setting sun is visible between tall downtown buildings.

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The vernal equinox is March 20, with sunrise at 6:53 a.m. and sunset at 7:02 p.m. To see Chicagohenge, walk down an east-west street with a clear view of the sky through the buildings. You can test your location a day or two before the equinox – the sun won’t be perfectly aligned yet, but it will be close enough.

Chicagohenge is just one way to experience the spring equinox as a family. You can mark the start of spring with lookout spots in your neighborhood or by creating your own “henge!”

Go for a walk and look for objects in the east if you want to watch the sunrise or in the west if you want to watch the sunset. They could be man-made, like the notches at the 606 west trailhead, or natural, like a gap between the trees.

To make a henge, use building blocks, sticks, stones, or even the ingredients for s’mores (s’moreshenge!) to create space for the sun to shine through. Then find a place to place your henge aligned with sunrise or sunset and enjoy!

However you decide to view the equinox, be sure to take a picture or encourage your children to draw a picture. Label @AdlerPlanet using #Chicagohenge on social media!

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Escape to the stars and rediscover all the Adler Planetarium has to offer when it finally reopens to the public on March 4.

What else can you find in Chicago’s skies this spring?

  • March: Spot Venus, Mars, and Saturn in the southeastern sky before sunrise. Keep watching throughout the month and you’ll see them getting closer and closer.
  • March 18: Full moon
  • April: Venus, Mars and Saturn will spread out. At the end of the month, they will be in a nearly straight line, with Jupiter joining them.
  • April 16: Full moon

Sarah Smail works with schools and families at Adler Planetarium, which (not coincidentally) is her 13-year-old daughter’s favorite place. Smail began his museum career as a teenager in Ohio, taught middle school STEM in Louisiana, and has called Chicago home since 2013.


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