Talking to primary school children about space is possibly my favourite outreach activity. This age group invariably comes up with the best questions. Unbridled curiosity coupled with a feeling that any question is a valid one oftentimes results in very incisive questions, and diluted replies are not acceptable. If a kid is not satisfied with an answer, they will tell you so. Thus, the question of how planets form led to the queries about the process of star formation, which in turn prompted the question of how the stellar nurseries (nebulae) themselves originate.
One student asked about the phenomenon of a wet moon (or Cheshire moon, as it is sometimes called): “Last weekend I was outside with my parents and, although they did not take notice, I realised that the moon did not appear like it usually does. It was sitting on its back, like upside down. Can I draw it for you?” The ensuing questions were penetratingly sharp.
From our sun to Pluto, and from black holes to distant galaxies and the size of the universe, it was a truly wonderful cosmic journey that we took!
I take the opportunity to thank the administration of the Gozo College Rabat Primary – The Happy School for their invitation to talk to these students and for organising a wonderful Space Week. It is my hope that as these kids grow up and myriad factors conspire to dissuade them from pursuing their dreams, they will look back upon occasions such as this one and find it in themselves to keep asking questions while trusting that they can make it to whichever destination they have in mind, not least space.