Space Month in Genius Words: Learn About Astronomer Jessica Mink and Planetary Rings With This Real-World Activity

May 27, 2021 / DIY & Printable

Genius content refreshes every month! This month, journey with Osmo into the far-out world of space and the Geniuses who’ve helped us understand it. We’ve put together special game updates, real-life genius stories, and real-world activities to assist you.

Share this week’s interactive, printable Space Month content with your child by clicking the button below, and scroll down for a preview!

Game Update

In Osmo Words, find your way through an epic dance party at the Space Museum, spelling celestial objects as you go. Only available this month!

Genius Spotlight: Jessica Mink

Technology has helped humans learn what objects in space look like beyond the naked eye. Nowadays, astronomers can use software and cameras attached to telescopes to get a pretty clear view. But back in 1977, when Jessica Mink and her team discovered the rings around Uranus, things weren’t so easy!

Jessica was working at the Laboratory for Planetary Sciences at Cornell University when a fellow astronomer predicted that Uranus was, for the first time, going to briefly cross in front of a distant star. Jessica and her team decided to measure the amount of light that would be blocked, to learn more about the 7th planet. But something seemed to go wrong. Instead of the star blacking out behind Uranus once, it flickered a few times before and after. Was the telescope glitching, or clouds were getting in the way? Only after going over their calculations repeatedly did the researchers realize: the flickering was caused by 5 rings around the planet!

Jessica went on to contribute to the discovery of Neptune’s rings as well. She is now a transgender advocate and software developer for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, analyzing data from telescopes and mapping the sky. Without her contributions, we’d be way more in the dark on our galaxy’s look and function.

Real-World Activity: Coffee Filter Space Art

Try this educator-approved activity at home. This week’s printable has instructions with photos!

Everyone and everything has a shadow. Uranus’s shadow from the blocked star helped Jessica’s team discover the planet’s rings. Learn about the Sun’s relative motion by grabbing some chalk.

  1. At 12pm one day, have your parent play “statue” by standing still outside.
  2. Outline their feet and shadow with chalk.
  3. Wait an hour and do it again, having them stand in the same spot.
  4. Where is the shadow now? Why? Feel free to predict where it will go next, and continue tracing throughout the day.