Tag Archives: Jupiter

A Gigantic, Happy Halloween

Do you know where in the universe you might find this?
400 years ago, Galileo concluded that it was orbiting this:
And with that, humanity took a giant step toward the realization that Earth isn’t the center of the universe.

We’ve had a full week of being Jupiter. At parties. Out trick-or-treating. At school. At Perkins Observatory. Sometimes with Europa-esque cracked-ocean face paint, but mostly without. He even won honorable mention for his costume at our neighborhood party last weekend. We thought about festooning his cheeks with volcanoes à la Io, but with all of this Halloweening, Declan has mostly told me “I feel like being just Jupiter today.”

Although, in moments, Venus, Pluto and Neptune’s moon Triton have monopolized his attention, he has loved Jupiter for more than half of his four-year-old life.

Meanwhile, I’ve been a little stunned to discover how alien the biggest planet in our solar system is to most adults. We would have had a much easier time with instant recognition if he’d wanted to be Saturn or Earth. I thought the extra big great red spot would be a good clue, but even the people who squealed about what a great idea it was for a kid to be Jupiter didn’t know much about its features.

He did school more than one grown-up as he trick-or-treated (including me). He let them know that all of the other planets in the solar system could fit inside of his. He told me that when you entered his atmosphere, it would smell like rotten eggs, which I surely did not know.

Mostly, though, he just shrieked with joy, heralding each new piece of candy that he got (with the exception of the person who gave him after dinner mints). This was the view of him and his mouse partner in candy mooching that we had for 99 percent of beggar’s night on Thursday:

Last night, when we went to Perkins Observatory, he was well appreciated. and he got to stand up in front of the crowd to help illustrate Jupiter’s features before stealing a quick look at his giant self in the telescope. It was a perfect celebration of both Halloween and the International Year of Astronomy (which we didn’t get to observe with the rest of the world last weekend due to rainy weather.)

This could be our last space-themed Halloween costume. Last year he was the solar system. The year before that, he simply wanted to be “space” (Phase I and II.) When we chatted about it last night, one of the astronomers noted that he seems to be getting smaller each Halloween. At this rate, he’s could be Eros or Eris next year.

Declan has told me that he wants to be some scary stabby person next year, I think because he’s mostly mild-mannered and would like to try being scary on for size. We’ll see what interests and fears another year brings. But Jupiter will live in a chest full of dress-ups, alongside his NASA uniform, space helmet, Star Trek: TNG captain’s uniform, and the shimmery capes and fabrics that take him on daily journeys to places no preschooler has gone before.

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Tiptoeing through the solar system

Some parents I know risk their feet and balance daily to toy cars, Barbie dolls or little plastic animals. In our house, it’s the Solar System – a collection that’s been growing for well over the past year and a half.

I try to get Declan help me to put all of them away in bins every night – inevitably making the floor a blank canvas for him to lay solar systems all around the room the next morning.

We’ve gone through periods of obsession with particular planets, and he’s long since rejected soft blankies with dogs on them in favor of shimmery fabrics from the craft store that he calls “the fabric of space and time.” He might be astrophysicist Brian Greene’s youngest groupie.

I replaced one of the shades on my back car window with window clings of the planets last year. And there’s nary a spherical object in our home that hasn’t, at some point, been substituted as a planet, moon or star.
The first acquisitions were paper and cardboard planets. One system went on the wall on his second birthday, but it only stayed there for a couple of weeks while he memorized their order. He learned their names when he was about 20 months old, during a watershed language-accumulating phase – one week colors, the next week shapes, then numbers and then planets – at his insistence.

Ever since, he’s wanted to hold his planets, to lay them out on the floor in order, to whoosh them past his face, one by one. The glow in the dark asteroids are used to make the asteroid belt sometimes. Other times he’s made it with a bunch of crumpled scraps of paper.
These are from a lunchbox full of small & mostly handmade things, there are dried balls of Play-doh that he made and Fimo shapes we made together (the flat sparkly one is Andromeda galaxy). There are also eight big marbles that his dad got for him, which Declan promptly gave planetary names.
This week’s most popular solar system is made up of balls from around the house. There are 10 because this collection includes Pluto and Charon, its moon. (I’m never sure which planet’s moons are going to make it into the mix.)
This is a nesting toy that readily became the outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and missing Pluto (which has rolled somewhere else in the house).
We have a couple of different solar system floor puzzles (gifts) that he loves and has started to mess up and reassemble without my help in the last couple of weeks. And the last page of this Teddy Bear book (based on the jump-rope rhyme) has nine bears, which he renamed as the planets (again, Pluto included) several months ago.
These bath letters represent the solar system and more, straight out of the Interactive Universe web site he loves – they are (counter clockwise): Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Hale-Bopp comet, Haley’s Comet, Helix Nebula (subbed the backwards 2 because we didn’t have another H), Orion nebula, Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to us after the sun), Black Hole, Milky Way (Y, because we only had two Ms) and Andromeda Galaxy.
Recently, all of this playroom space travel started to develop into a deeper appreciation for Earth – its oceans and continents, its gravity, all of the unique ingredients it possesses that made us possible.

Because he insists that we continually remain on this galactic ride, that new appreciation for the earth, our place in the universe is all of ours, not just his.

Also see Jupiter in its earthly incarnations.

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Jupiter is everywhere

This is Jupiter. A gas giant.
The fifth planet from the sun.
1,300+ earths could fit inside of it.
My son sees it everywhere.

Someone decided against these placemats at the grocery store and discarded them in the cereal aisle this past spring.
“I need Jupiter!” Declan squealed, pointing at them from the cart. He held them in awe and smushed them into his face for the rest of the shopping trip. He would not leave the store without them. Thankfully, they were on clearance for 25 cents a piece:

Marketers call this a swirly-something-or-other, but Declan calls it a Jupiter popsicle. (There are Mars and Venus popsicles in the same box, but that’s a story for another day.)
I have become very good at drawing Jupiter.
(For the record, I did not know the names of the Galilean moons until I had Declan.)

Sometimes we call this ball Neptune, because of its color.
But since it’s the biggest one we have, it’s the Jupiter of our ball solar system.

We heart Jupiter.Related post: Tiptoeing through the solar system

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